Arts feature: Three Women

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive

Kate Morgan, Robie Benve and Veena Bansal are all Columbus-based artists, having arrived here from different parts of the world, at different times in their lives. Each also incorporates a mixed-media approach in her work, to dramatically different yet rewarding effect.

Since the three had not all met each other prior to this exhibition of their work at Marcia Evans Gallery in the Short North, here’s an Alive story that can also serve as an introduction.

How long do you have to have been doing good, recognized work before you’re no longer an “emerging” artist? I think it’s safe to call Kate Morgan emerged.

Her trademark figurative collages — women with unnaturally elongated features and hair made of old paper — were not arrived at overnight. Because of that journey, it’s a style in which she still feels like she has something to say.

“I made all of my bad decisions early [in life] so I could get my shit straight,” Morgan said. After dropping out of college due to depression, she left Columbus at age 18 for Florida with a boyfriend “who validated me, I guess,” she said. A few years later and in staggering debt, she moved to upstate New York where her parents were living and got herself together. A partial scholarship to CCAD brought her back to Columbus, where her art emerged while she was working in commercial photography.

“All those things build character, and, for me, have brought me to a place where I’m comfortable doing this,” Morgan said.

She began collage work because she had come into possession of an 1800s Bible. “Everybody has all of this old paper (Morgan also uses maps, sheet music and other antique paper), and it’s cool and has value, and what are you going to do with it?” she said. “You put it in a drawer and the next generation is going to throw it out, so here I’m honoring the past.”

Robie Benve grew up in a family in which everyone could draw, so she didn’t think much of it as a talent. Raised near Venice, Italy, surrounded by the work of historic masters, she fought the comparison, first by gravitating toward abstract work, and later by entering business school, getting married and moving to the U.S., where her new husband would embark on a career in medical research.

When the family moved to Columbus in 2010, Benve spent a year as a stay-at-home mom and began painting every day. “I found my bliss,” Benve said.

While her adeptness with form and figure drew her initially to landscape work (which she still practices; witness her “Short North Arches” in this exhibition), she became interested in the freedom of abstract art. Her latest series combines these approaches, with her interpretations of parts of the human body as viewed through a microscope giving off a distinctly abstract vibe.

“People don’t recognize … that this one is a liver, or this one is inside the ear,” Benve said. “But I find it fascinating. If it’s healthy, it’s a perfect machine, everything in the right place and with a reason.”

The assurance that Veena Bansal’s work evokes is the result of a life well-lived. A blend of figurative and floral painting with abstract influences, her mixed-media work is the result of past experience — she was an avid art student growing up in India and, when she had a young family in the U.S., she did decorative work in people’s homes — and the challenges that come with trying to make a life in a new place.

“My husband worked and was going to school. I was in a foreign country. My art was my savior,” Bansal said.

Bansal’s expression, her fulfillment through art, was slow but steady in coming. Even as she was doing work for others, employing the ultra-traditional technique she learned in India, she was pushing, exploring. In her words, maturing.

“The eyes I have now are so different than the eyes I had when I was 19 or 20,” Bansal said. “Now I see a lot more. It does play a part in the art.”

Through Feb. 25

8 E. Lincoln St., Short North

Marcia Evans Gallery