Anthony "weird*eye*one" DeBenedictis is a jack of many trades. He's a painter, muralist, designer, illustrator and a part-time street artist.
His solo show, "A Trip Through Sunset Gardens," which will be up at The Butcher from July 21 to Sept. 15, is a psychedelic romp through the beasts and blooms of the artist's technicolor imagination. There are brilliantly colored bugs and squids, elephants and tigers staring out like spirit animals, disembodied shark jaws swallowing bird-decked bouquets, and galloping horses bejeweled with flowers, all filtered through the wild style of the Weird Eye One.
Originally from Newark, N.J./Queens, N.Y., DeBenedictis says he got his moniker from the giant eyes and "creepy box-shaped characters" he used to paint on the walls of abandoned buildings and the occasional freight train.
"I started out painting walls in abandoned buildings, not really formal graffiti since I didn't focus on letters too much. I was more into painting giant eyes and characters," explains DeBenedictis. "I got into exploring abandoned buildings a long time ago and I still enjoy finding new places. I still paint walls in them as well. Freight trains were another object that I liked painting, more so in the past, but nowadays I may still paint a few here and there.
"There's still some of my painted freights still running the tracks across the country," DeBenedictis continued. "However, a lot of abandoned buildings that I've painted my pieces in, those murals have been up for over 10 years untouched and may stay that way for many more decades."
Now living near the beach in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., DeBenedictis has transitioned over the years into an artistic polymath of sorts.
"I'm mostly self-taught in painting and illustration, and print making is another skill that I acquired while in college," says DeBenedictis. "Although I'm mostly an illustrator and a painter in the studio, my mural work is more abstract. I'm sort of self-employed. I juggle between being a fine artist and a commissioned mural painter - outdoors and indoors, houses, corporate. I'm also a contract illustrator/painter and designer in fashion textiles, women's fashion and designing handbags."
DeBenedictis grew up in the skateboarding-punk rock-graffiti world and those influences are evident in his work. The show at The Butcher is a bit more bright and cheery compared to some of his earlier,"darker," work and he says it marks the end of a long run of focusing almost exclusively on animals and nature.
"I poured a lot into this new collection, and I made it extra special! I started 10 months ago and when I got to the end, it was a little emotional for sure. I'm always going to do something with animals and nature, but I want to move on to new ideas and explore new work."
DeBenedictis says that tattoo and henna art also had a big influence on this exhibition and it definitely shows. It obviously makes a perfect fit for The Butcher, an art gallery and tattoo shop that has been featuring some standout, left-field artwork in the last few years.
There's no official opening night event planned, but there will be a closing night party at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 with the artist in attendance. DeBenedictis hints that he may try to find an abandoned wall to paint while he's in Savannah (and there are plenty to choose from!). He may also leave a few small gifts around town in the form of miniature paintings he likes to post up wherever he visits.
"I've never been down there, so I'm looking forward to it!"
IF YOU GO
What: "A Trip Through Sunset Gardens" by Anthony "weird*eye*one" DeBenedictis
When: July 21-Sept. 15; closing reception 7-10 p.m. Sept. 15
Where: The Butcher Gallery, 19 E. Bay St.