Gate to the Sea
Opening reception with the artist Saturday, October 19, 5 - 7pm
Exhibition on view through November 16, 2019
gallery neptune & brown is pleased to present Hats Off, a new and exciting body of work by contemporary artist Benjamin Ferry. In his first one-person exhibition with the gallery, Ferry completes a two-year exploration of extraordinary Washington, DC milliner Vanilla Beane, and her shop, Bené Millinery.
Over 40 years in operation, Bené Millinery has outfitted prominent local and national figures in intricately crafted, one of a kind hats, establishing Ms. Beane as a Washington, DC community pillar. Her entrepreneurial spirit coincided with an awakening of political activism and the civil rights movement in Washington, DC. The ‘Bené’ hat has developed a history of symbolizing economic freedom, fashion, and status for African American women. Ms. Beane's hats not only adorn the heads of her loyal following but have been featured as part of the 2013 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, and have now been acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In celebration of the designer’s 100th birthday in September, Benjamin Ferry presents his new body of work to commemorate her artistry and history.
Throughout his career, Ferry has been motivated by his mid-western roots, the changing arts culture of Washington, and an extensive history of professorships. Drawing inspiration from turn of the century American artists, his work combines individual and collective histories and can be read as a study of regionalism: “All of my artwork has been a reflection of who I am and where I’m from. I’ve seldom made anything that doesn’t reflect where my family is from, or how my own identity relates to the subject matter.” Ferry’s penchant to tie practice to place has inspired a particular interest in capturing the spirit of Bené and Vanilla Beane: “I admire the makers that quietly and diligently go about their work and have a dramatic effect on the communities in which they live.” Using a variety of media, including oil, ink, watercolor, and pastel, Ferry has developed a series of intimate interiors and portraits that pair Ms. Bean with her own craft; an ode to the parallels between hat design and painting.
Ferry obtained both his fine art degrees from The George Washington University and has been an award-winning artist with numerous important commissions over twenty years.