Ben Howell‘s Transcription #1 is a hanging scroll with Howell’s handwritten transcription of the Book of Mormon. It was also a performance piece at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibit Church vs State: Contemporary Collecting Praxis. Transcription #1 covers the first half of the Book of Mormon. Howell is working on Transcription #2.
Howell is a graduate of the Pratt Institute’s MFA and MLIS programs. His eclectic background includes work as an interactive fine artist, church organ fabricator, and library scientist. Howell wrote a ‘bit about my background’ for The Krakens:
“Born out of season, premature, during an April snowstorm at the tail end of the 70’s. My praxis longs for intensive focus, interactivity and endurance through the rediscovery, use and redirection of discarded practices. I seek the experience of the contemporary via the context and renewal of the derelict. My goal is to continue to explore the experience and relationship between artistic production in the home and the wild.
“I loved but neglected visual art until my first year in high school. I had an amazing teacher, Bill Larsen, who animated and elevated my appreciation of art history and creative production. I was hooked. From unnamed neolithic stone artist to de Kooning I felt among kin. I continued to take art history courses in conjunction with studio courses at the University of Utah. I began working at the Fine Arts Library in the J. Willard Marriott Library where I had the opportunity to interview many older artists about their work and their amazing collections. Through these relationships, I felt one step away from early twentieth century art/design luminaries such as Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller. I also began rethinking the incredible diversity of land art and other contemporary/commercial, governmental and artistic practices that I had always taken for granted, ‘just a part of Utah’. I made my first trip to Spiral Jetty and where I had never felt farther from home. It felt like I was in a chapter of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles’.
“I had a huge array of studio courses in my Sculpture Degree at the U. I loved all of them, but especially woodworking and anything electronic and interactive. I was more interested in human scale and interactive pieces than anything static. I worked in fabric, knit, wood, and other natural materials. I loved the library, loved the form and history of all written technology, scroll, codex, etc. I took bookbinding courses, tried unsuccessfully to enter the world of conservation. I’d try again. I worked at a pipe organ building company in American Fork. I loved woodworking and building.
“During my graduate degree in sculpture I focused on art and spirituality, performance and interaction. For my thesis I created an open and looped system where I built an expanding set of costume elements, travelled to site oriented locations via bicycle and performed/documented ritual and return. I want to take artistic practice where it doesn’t belong. I did performance work at small family owned farms in rural Italy where my only audience was farmers who told me my practice was impractical. I worked for them 6 days a week in exchange for room and board and once carved an egg out of a fallen tree to help their chicken begin laying eggs.
“Currently I am applying for Reference and Instruction positions at universities around the country. I write for an hour to two hours per day, transcribing the Book of Mormon and I am working on an embroidery project to visualize the interaction between dead cattle, pioneer settlers and Ute peoples in San Pitch (Sanpete), Utah – Winter 1849.”