Veronica Benning – Self Portrait
I had the privilege to have Ronnie Benning as my 4th year instructor at PSA (Portland School of Art, now MECA, Maine College of Art). Ronnie and Johnnie Ross both instructed the senior painters. Ronnie was a very mild mannered person. I remember her being tall and slender, her eyes exuded intelligence. Her methods were always encouraging. I recall mostly how she would pick up on things she valued and make praises. Looking back she was unlike my other professors. I don’t recall any negative comments.
Art school is like any other learning environment…it is riddled with egos. Some professors are there for the $, some to learn and some to teach. I must say I had a fantastic 4 years at PSA and I enjoyed and learned much from all teaching styles. Instructors have the opportunity to make or break people. I saw both. I saw people pushed so hard that they became alienated and dropped out of the painting department and school.
Our instructors understood art in a certain way. They were influenced by others who instilled in them a path to creativity. Well, we all know that the greatest geniuses find their own paths. But everyone is not genius, they are people imbued with the struggle of life and are trying their best to make sense of it.
Ronnie Benning encouraged me in spite of my shortcomings. At PSA she was a moderate influence whom I could count on to gently push me forward into a space of unknowing. My senior year I went out on a wing, farther than the previous years. I felt encouraged to explore and discover, sometimes not sure if I was properly grounded. Ronnie never held me back and to this day I find inspiration in her thoughtful encouragement.
In the past months I was reunited with Ronnie on Facebook. She immediately began to encourage me and my work. And I got to see lots of her own work which she posted and shared. She was very complimentary and I found myself immensely grateful to her. Ronnie knew where I was coming from in my paintings like only a very few others do. I felt like she celebrated my curiosity and adventures into where I had not been before. She made many comments always assuring me and at the end of her comments she would say, “according to me.”
For some reason we connected and only for a short time. Ronnie passed away on December 24, 2013. A mutual friend told me about this a few days ago. I felt stunned. Her death was the result of complications from surgery. I immediately felt like something was taken from me and I was confused. I still am confused and sad that our dialogues cannot go on. I am sad for her close friends and family.
Her paintings are beautiful constructions of color. They are all about color in a very pure way. My conversations and messages with her were also very pure and always about our mutual love for art. I especially loved to see when she commented on my Facebook posts. I would read them immediately and think, wow, she is so nice.
For all the feelings I have one may think we were great friends but I cannot say that. We were just two people who happened to be on a quest to follow our passions, each encouraging the other to reach.
Thank you Ronnie Benning