Robert Benson was born in Chicago. "I was raised Presbyterian, with a very brief Lutheran stint. We went to church on Sundays, but we never considered ourselves a religious family." After serving as the enlisted Army secretary to General Mark Clarke in Korea and Japan, Benson moved to Baltimore in 1953. He first worked for the B&O Railroad and was a pioneer in the early days of public radio. Bob Benson became a much beloved classical music radio host, critic, and an award-winning orchid grower, traveling to South American jungles to collect rare specimens. Around 2003, Benson became enchanted by seeing the flash from a single strand of double-sided mirrors hanging on a filament. "I immediately imagined the possibilities." He quickly transformed his front lawn into a shimmering display at grand scale of his handmade "flashies." Neighbors Rick and Betty Ames suggested making a "tree" out of the flashies. Rick also offered his services as a welder and artist, likewise self-taught. Museum Director Rebecca Hoffberger visited Benson's lawn at sunrise to witness the mirror display "in all its glory." She then invited Bob and Rick to install what has since become a series of mirrored trees at the front entry to the American Visionary Art Museum (The Universal Tree of Life), and to create the permanent mirrored Oceanus at the bottom of the Museum's Main Stairwell, to complement artist Andrew Logan's Black Icarus sculpture.
Take a Workshop with Bob!
Bob also teaches fans the art and technique of "flashie-making" in his popular Shiny Happy Things workshops, offered throughout the year at AVAM. Check our Programs & Events Calendar for upcoming dates.
Links: To learn more about Bob Benson, visit: shinyhappythings.net.