San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Photo-Artist Couple Goes Digital in Atenas

Sixth in an ongoing series on Atenas basedartists.“The object of art is not to representreality, but to create a reality of the sameintensity.”–Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)Swiss sculptor and painterAFTER a playful greeting from Alexthe shar-pei and Max the pug, the firstthing that strikes visitors to the home ofDouglas and Ava Benn is the couple’s artworkcovering the walls – a private exhibitfeaturing their prolific creativity. Hereare fine art photographs, computer-generatedpictures and mixed media producedby Ava, an award-winning photographyartist from New York, and her husband,Douglas, a digital photo artist and professorof facial radiology from London.One year ago, the Benns moved to thecoffee town of Atenas, northwest of SanJosé, because they wanted to live in a Latincountry. They say they have not had oneunpleasant experience ever since.“We did not come to Costa Rica to findthe 51 United States,” says Douglas, 59,who taught at the University of Florida for12 years. “We learned the language andwanted to enjoy the culture.”Douglas has worked with computersfor three decades, and received his Master’sdegree in computer science from theOpen University in England. In the early1970s, he attended the Sir John CassCollege of Art (London MetropolitanUniversity) and began to paint in oils.Frequently exhibited at the St. AugustineArt Association in Jacksonville, Florida,his main interests are digital fine art andphotography.DOUGLAS likes to experiment withdifferent styles. His digitally generatedworks range from the abstract to the representational,including political commentaries.His trademark is the reduction tothe essential, conveying determinationand strength in an unconventional, minimalistway.“I feel creative when life becomes difficult,”says Douglas, who names Spanishsurrealist Salvador Dali as his favoritepainter. “Sometimes I commence with ablank screen, and when it is finished Ihardly recall how it began.”One of his most moving pieces is entitled“The Cell.” Surrounded by absolutedarkness, an orange-colored male figurekneels on the ground, his arms stretchedout in despair, his mouth open to scream.The man’s body and face are turned towarda single barred window from which lightseeps into the total isolation of his universalcaptivity.WHILE Douglas is inspired by life’sdilemmas, Ava takes her ideas from fragmentsof dreams or stimulating music.Then, browsing through her archive, sheselects various photographs to combineinto pictures of graceful abundance on thescreen.“Working on the computer, I feel verycentered,” says Ava, 33. “I’m peaceful. It’sa total escape from everything; I live in thepicture.”Art has been in Ava’s family for threegenerations. Among her ancestors isGerman-French abstract painter HansHartung (1904-89).Ava began her art education with photographyclasses in high school. At the ageof 17, she won a U.S. National ScholasticArt Awards gold medal for her photograph“Flowery Awakening.”With a scholarship from the BrooklynSchool of Art and Design (Pratt Institute)in New York, she continued her studies andwas involved in the Manhattan chapter ofPictorial Photographers of America aswell. In becoming a photographer, sheaimed to unite the professions of her parents:chemistry and painting.The winner of numerous awards, Ava isalso a ceramist and sculptor. Her extraordinaryart has been shown throughout theUnited States for the past 15 years.Both Ava and Douglas have workedwith the digital fine art media for aboutfive years. Both are convinced that interactivepictures will soon be common in theart world.IS there concord in art?“Yes,” Douglas says. “It’s the ultimateform of communication, where there areno bounds from financial or political constraints.It’s just subjective thought madeavailable to anybody.”“It’s communication that escapes alldefinition,” Ava adds.Those interested in purchasing or seeingmore of the Benns’ work can visittheir Web site at, or call 446-6121 or 361-2265.

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