Behind the Scenes: Of art and aliens

By Columbus Alive
From the January 24, 2013 edition

Ben Quinn has a roommate. Her name is Lily. She only addresses him and walks around their apartment at night. Lily is a ghost.

Quinn, a senior at CCAD, knows how it sounds.

“I’m not crazy,” he protested, laughing, as he relayed his ghost story at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s second floor in the arts and media wing.

Quinn’s latest artwork comprises Roy G Biv Gallery’s first in a series of shows at the CML’s main branch. “Taking a Closer Look” examines another other-worldly interest of the artist’s: aliens. More specifically, extra-terrestrial life and the government’s role in studying it.

The 10 three-feet-by-four-feet framed artworks are screen printed copies of government documents about UFO sightings, testaments of alien abductions and orders to halt discussion of extra-terrestrial life.

Quinn used oil paint and charcoal to manipulate each document to tell his story. One document is almost completely blacked out, the only words evident are “space people.” Another piece has specific words circled in yellow paint; they spell out their own message “suppressed,” “dangerous,” “information.”

The copied files in the show are just a few of hundreds Quinn has researched on the FBI and Freedom of Information Act websites. Aliens and ancient cultures’ mythical relationships with them have always intrigued Quinn. As he worked on this show, his mom gave him a book he wrote in third grade about going through a time warp with aliens to another planet (they didn’t hurt him, but they did eat his video camera, which, to third-grade Quinn, really sucked).

Whatever your reality is — whether it includes belief in aliens, angels, ghosts or none of the above — “Taking a Closer Look” is most interesting in its relaying of human experiences. From Quinn’s questioning of what his leaders allow him to know to an anonymous man from the 1940s recounting the mysterious thing he saw in the sky; from Congress’ discussion of “how to indoctrinate people to receive space people” to its discussion to end any discussion about it at all. Despite all their differences, all of them are trying to cope with things they don’t understand, a very earthly dilemma.

The most unbelievable thing about my interview with Quinn: Dude’s not a sci-fi fan.

Photo by Meghan Ralston