You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

breaking news

Tornado warning for Cherokee, Pickens, Meriwether counties

Atlanta artist captures 2 views of the world

Atlanta artist Ben Steele works in a predominately blue and white palette that gives his paintings the ambiance of glaciers, swimming pools, the flickering blue light of television screens and other ethereal, shimmering surfaces. The paintings create a restful mood at first glance, though Steele’s ongoing theme of fracturing and distorting space can work against that calm. The paintings strike a unique balance between stimulating and restful.

In his solo show of nine paintings at Westside’s Poem 88, Steele works in dimensions both intimate and grand. His paintings in oil on panel and on canvas range from a compact 18 x 24 inches to a far more magisterial 85 x 71 inches. But the same preoccupations apply no matter what the size: an interest in splitting the physical space in the paintings apart and making viewers work to find their way in the fracas.

One of the more arresting, finely wrought works in this mode is “Submerged,” in which the space of the painting is split horizontally by a black line that seems to divide what lies above the water line, and below. Above the water line there is the suggestion of a boat’s rudder and crisp, clear detail. Below is what might be an iceberg and black, watery depths rendered in murkier terms. But as your eye moves up and above this water-logged scene, the whole illusion begins to crumble. You glimpse duct work and rafters that suggest a room behind what now appears to be a painted set depicting that oceanic cataclysm. It’s like a glimpse of the wizard behind the curtain. Suddenly you’re alerted to the fact that rather than looking at a scene, you are looking at a fiction that has been carefully constructed.

And therein lies the rub. Steele’s work is about alerting viewers to the painter’s hand in creating artificial constructions. Like many of the paintings in his solo show “Ben Steele: From This, A Mountain” at Poem 88, “Submerged” suggests two views of the world. There’s the visible surface and the hidden one we are less likely to see, whether that hidden world is under water, behind a curtain or reflected in a mirror. Light and imagery bounce off surfaces in Steele’s paintings like “Projected Wings,” taking our attention with them as our eyes roam around, dazzled by all there is to see. Steele’s paintings can suggest overexposed photographs with their complex layers of visual information, or a fun house where walls of mirrors distort and deform what we see.

In fact, illusion is part of Steele’s modus operandi. The hall of mirrors effect Steele creates derives from how he creates his art. Steele begins his process by first building sculptures in his studio, onto which he then digitally projects imagery. The paintings are merely the final steps in capturing these elaborate stage sets he has constructed.

Steele’s views, split apart and fractured, can suggest the addled mind of any creative person imagining all sorts of possibilities as he works. The paintings are challenging, interesting and a bit oblique, but they show — along with the recent exhibition of Shara Hughes’ paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia — that a local movement is afoot to investigate painting’s potential and maybe call into question the obvious surface of things we take for granted in day-to-day life.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

Poet ponders life on the brink of death
Poet ponders life on the brink of death

That a writer with only months to live could carve out the time and energy to chronicle her experience of terminal cancer is an impressive feat. That a writer could accomplish this with such exuberant prose as Nina Riggs does in her debut memoir, “The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying,” is revelatory. The book, birthed after Riggs&rsquo...
’Downton Abbey’ the movie in the works, production to start next year
’Downton Abbey’ the movie in the works, production to start next year

“Downton Abbey” the movie is in the works, with production scheduled to begin next year. The popular, award-winning PBS television drama, which ended in 2015, focused on the lives of an aristocratic British family, the Granthams, and their family of servants. The historical TV series, starring Dame Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern...
Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Hulk and Wong take break from filming in Atlanta to tweet photo
Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Hulk and Wong take break from filming in Atlanta to tweet photo

Talk about squad goals. Robert Downey Jr. amped up the excitement for “Avengers: Infinity War” on Wednesday when he tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo from the upcoming film — featuring a few of his superhero friends. Downey, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo and Benedict Wong all posed together in costume...
WATCH: The trailer for “Marshall,” starring Chadwick Boseman, is out

Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed James Brown in “Get On Up” and Jackie Robinson in Atlanta-filmed “42,” steps into another historic role with “Marshall,” due out in October. Boseman, who filmed Marvel movies “Black Panther” and “Captain America: Civil War” in Atlanta, portrays U.S. Supreme...
How to make a Shake Shack burger at home
How to make a Shake Shack burger at home

Fast food history is filled with secret formulas: Mrs. Field’s cookies, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coca-Cola or the special sauce on McDonald’s Big Macs. Fans are always looking for ways to crack the code and make their own versions at home. Watch Nedra Rhone and Jewel Wicker make a Shake Shack Shack Burger: Rather than keep consumers guessing...
More Stories