The term artist carries some serious weight. It’s like telling someone you’re a skateboarder—you’re setting yourself up for a landslide of misconceptions, generalizations and age-old stereotypes. Ben Horton, the art director at $lave, was drawn to the skateboard/artist path as a kid based on its boundless freedom. His artwork often has dark themes, explores bleak futures and carries strong political and cultural messages. But, there is often a sarcastic and subtle sense of humor that is sublimated within his amazing vision. Check this shit out! It’s tight!!!
Words by John McGuire
Your artwork’s most common theme is animals in anthropomorphic or human scenarios. Is this an observation of the similarities of humans and animals or a snub at the absurdity in which the two coexist?
A little bit of both.
African Wild Dog.
Do you self-identify more as an artist or a skateboarder?
The $lave video seems to be the visual progression or animated next step of your paintings. What’s next for $lave and your art? Creating World peace, ending World hunger, and revealing Osama Bin Laden’s hiding place. Also, we are working on a new video that should be out sometime in the future. We are also going on our first Midwest trip. That should be fun. Camping, skating, etc. We are going to Kansas City where I’ll have an art show at Escapist skate shop.
What’s the most common misconception about your artwork?
That my artwork’s most common theme is animals in anthropomorphic or human scenarios.
For any readers out there that want to pursue art what kind of insight could you give them? Would you suggest school or just self-motivated enthusiasm?
I would advise them to keep doing it. Whether it’s drawing, painting or whatever, it’s important to do it for fun as a way of expression or just as a hobby. If you enjoy it and that leads to a career in art, that’s cool. But don’t pursue it as some type of career move or business venture. Art isn’t something to conquer or be the best at. If that is a person’s main goal, then it will show in their art. If it’s a large paycheck they’re after they should probably skip art altogether and head for the entertainment business.
You’ve definitely created a very strong visual aesthetic for $lave. What are some of your influences or inspirations?
My environment. Human society in relationship to the natural world. Current events, geology, politics, societies, relationships, bird migrations, reproduction, fame and fortune, weather patterns, etc…
Both skateboarding and art can and are misunderstood by society at large. Both are attractive in the sense that there are no true rules. What other similarities or differences do you see?
Freedom. That’s what attracted me to skateboarding as a kid. Freedom to do whatever the hell you want and however you want.
Mumford, the Wild Kingdom series.
Weapons Of Bass Destruction.
A lot of today’s art seems to be doodle based, where yours is strongly rooted in a very disciplined craft. Do you ever secretly draw Garfield or SpongeBob when no one’s looking?
No. I don’t draw cartoons at all. But I definitely doodle. I enjoy a good hand drawn line. I don’t give a crap if the line is part of a perfect portrait of Alexander the Great or Patrick the starfish. If it’s done well, I’m a fan.
Do you have embarrassingly strange guilty pleasures?
You mean like Bon-Bons and shit?
How much of your subject matter is calculated and how much is spontaneous?
No clue. I feel like my ideas and subject matter are always spontaneous. But as I work on them, they become more refined and thought out.
Hunters And The Hunted.
Since so much of your work is animal based. Do you have any favorite animals?
African wild dog, chimpanzee, cow, chicken, trout, hyena, crow… I could go on for days.
Do you have any artist, films or music you could share that have made a strong and lasting impact? Do you feel like you’re living your dream? Or does it seem like work?
Unfortunately it feels like dreaming of work. You know, the kind of dream when you’re exhausted when you wake up.
What are some of the most concerning issues to you right now, being a father, a business owner and an artist?
The gradual breakdown in the morals and values of society.
At what point do you feel was your loss of innocence? Was there a particular moment? Like, the moment when you were a kid and you just realized, “Shit, I have to get a job and do dumb shit… gonna have to the play by the rules.”
The first day of school.
Most of your paintings/art work have a dark or bleak theme. What’s out there that reassures that there’s still some light/hope/good?
Truth. I don’t know… Star Wars? Jesus? WalMart’s roll-back prices? Actually there are a lot of people out there busting their ass for a cause that’s bigger than them. Whether it’s fund raising to help people in need, trying to cure diseases, volunteering their time and effort at schools, etc. I guess they’re the light and hope.
Allie, Wild Kingdom series.
What is true freedom?
Happiness. Even if the only thing you own in the world is a dog or a cardboard box, if you’re happy, then that’s freedom.
What’s your favorite conspiracy?
John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination is really interesting. Maybe 9-11. George W. Bush and the Skull and Bones society. I don’t know, there’s so many.
In one of his many songs Tom Waits asked, “How’s it going to end?” Any ideas?
It’s never going to end. Infinity + 1.
Favorite lyrics? “…there’s a lot of things in this world that you’re gonna have no use for … and when you get blue and you’ve lost all your dreams, there’s nothing like a campfire and a can of beans.”