Like many fields, the art world is a total boy’s club. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, women account for 51% of all visual artists, yet a mere 3-5% of prominent permanent collections in America feature female artists. That’s why women are the focus of LIFEWTR’s second series, following an earlier release of three artist-created bottles. The art-forward water brand started by PepsiCo released the sophomore edition on June 5, featuring Trudy Benson (scroll down for a Q&A with her), Lynnie Z and Adrienne Gaither.
According to Olga Osminkina-Jones, vice president of global marketing for PepsiCo’s hydration portfolio, artists are selected with the help of a cultural council made up of “different influential people in art spaces that were brought to us by the likes of Frieze (the art-focused media and event company).”
With the release of the second series, LIFEWTR also announced the start of a mentorship program as well as a partnership with Frieze to start a fund for permanent pieces in the Brooklyn Museum. According to Osminkina-Jones, the brand will be working with the featured artists to foster mentorships.
“’Mentorship’ is such a big word, and frankly, it means very different things to different people,” Osminkina-Jones says. “Equally, it means different things to different artists. Depending on what the needs are of the artists is how we’re effectively structuring how we’re helping them advance their careers.”
Based out of Brooklyn, Trudy Benson is an abstract painter whose uses of texture, color and collage stem from her childhood experiences with toying around in Microsoft Paint. We sat down with Benson to talk about the inspiration for her LIFEWTR design. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Texture’s a huge theme in your work. Could you talk about why that is?
The body of work that I’m working on has been slowly progressing for the past nine years or so. I started as a figurative painter. I was trying to enter abstraction through what I knew as my first experience of making abstract work, which was through the computer. So a lot of my work has been created with the same idea of collaging different marks and ways of applying paint, but done all on the canvas and with traditional paint materials. Since then I’ve been evolving out of being so heavily influenced by digital and into more analog ways of making work. Last summer I made a series of works on paper, and that’s where this design came out of. I was trying to wrap my head around collage in a more analog way. So I was painting paper, cutting it up and collaging it back together. There’s still that idea that there’s a building up of layers in the work. There’s still the idea of really discrete ways of making marks and that really comes through in the texture.
How did you choose this specific design for the bottle?
I made a few and this one was probably the best design. I really liked having the simple blue square in the design.
It sounds like you’re used to working on flat surfaces. How was it working with a curved surface?
I’ve never worked with a curved surface before. The piece was actually a combination of scanned in paper works that I worked back into Photoshop. I just had to kind of imagine it in my mind how it would look. That’s how the more simple design really comes across. Something I wasn’t expecting too with the bottle was that you can see through it, which I really like.
Did that lead to any changes after you saw the art on the bottle?
We simplified it a little bit. There was another color in the background and we took out one of the color elements.
What made you say yes to this collaboration? What about LIFEWTR stood out to you?
I really liked, first of all, the message of having more exposure for women artists. That’s something I think about and talk about a lot with my peers. I also really like the idea of having the work reach broad audiences. Something I think the art world can’t do [since] it’s a really small, kind of exclusive world. People sometimes feel intimidated by it. Something that’s really nice is the accessibility of the bottle. I also like to think about when I was younger and seeing a friend of mine had a shirt with Keith Haring on it and things like that really got me interested in art at a young age. I think that it hopefully will help younger generations realize — especially young women — that this is something that’s attainable to them.
Since working with LIFEWTR, has it inspired you to work with more shaped surfaces?
I actually thought about making a shaped painting before. Elizabeth Murray’s one of my heroes. But I haven’t really done it. Making this project, it kind of started a new series of works on paper for me, which then influences the paintings.
Benson’s art is now on display at New York gallery Lyles & King in the Lower East Side until July 28.