Bright yellow and gold blooms bedeck a backdrop of brilliant blues and warm browns, and the name of our beloved city is spelled out in a vintage typeface taken from a 1918 map. The painted swathe of sunflowers entitled Holy Radiance, by nationally recognized artist Ben Keller, will surely stop you in your tracks, and is a balm for those still lamenting the loss of 10,000 Suns, the award-winning public art installation/sunflower field along South Water Street that ceased after six summers when the parcel was sold to a developer.
The mural, which resides on Cedar Street at the Huntington Exchange apartment building, was produced by The Avenue Concept, a Providence-based nonprofit devoted to making public art happen. The group strives to create an environment in which onlookers not only view art but truly engage with each installation they support. Holy Radiance, created by Connecticut native Keller, is no exception to this rule. A nuanced ode to New England, the depiction of blowsy sunflowers adds a new feature to the Federal Hill skyline.
“This mural was inspired by a box truck I painted last fall on a farm, and also by a field of sunflowers that previously existed in downtown Providence known as the 10,000 Suns project, created by Adam E. Anderson,” says Keller referencing the founder of DESIGN UNDER SKY, a local landscape architecture studio. “I loved the relation between the two concepts so I was more than happy to recreate that attraction in my own way in the Little Italy neighborhood.”
Keller has been an artist for almost his entire life. While he shares that his mother often had to coerce him to get to art class, his resistance melted away as soon as he put brush to canvas. In his teen years he became heavily inspired by graffiti artist Barry McGee and dreamed of working on giant spaces. After various career paths, he embraced his skills, went big, and became a full-time artist. Along with murals, Keller’s striking portfolio includes portraits, figures, objects, and botanicals, on paper, canvas, wood panels, and box trucks.
“The impact of painting on such a large surface is undeniable,” says Keller. “I’m already looking forward to working in Providence again soon!” Learn more at BenKellerArt.com
Download The Avenue Concept Art Tour app and explore dozens of murals and sculptures throughout Rhode Island. Tours are designed to view the greatest number of artworks in one day. The app provides an interactive experience of photos, videos, and prompts. Follow suggested routes or create your own. TheAvenueConcept.org
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