Obsessed with action figures and superheroes for as long as she can remember, illustrator Ana Benaroya was always disappointed when her family gave her Barbie dolls for her birthday. She wanted toys of seriously muscular men when she was a girl. She still does and this desire informs much of her work today, from award-winning professional illustration gigs for clients as varied as Nickelodeon, The New Yorker, and Time Out New York, to her artistic projects for galleries from Paris to Portland to Thessaloniki. Ana was born in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, New York, but she’s lived in New Jersey since she finished a degree in illustration and art history at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Ancient Greco-Roman sculpture and contemporary Pop culture provide Ana with a vast and fertile source of inspiration, leaving her fun and youthful images filled with bright colors, hot sauce, masculine body builders, pretty faces, and willfully misunderstood religious references. Though hugely prolific, Ana takes a casual attitude to making work. “Whenever I try too hard to plan a piece out,” she explains, “it never turns out as good as when I just trust my instincts and start drawing.” She sometimes wonders in vain what the hell she would do with her life if she was not an artist. Ana found Akrylic before we found her when she wrote in to tell us how much she enjoyed the Jason Gringler inquisition. We Googled her and when we saw how rad her illustration work is, we knew we had to subject her to an inquisition as well. (Check out her website at www.anabenaroya.com and you will see what we are talking about.) Her answers came to us via email in September 2009.
1. If given a choice for your next life, do you want to be a man or a woman? ( as with all these questions, answering “why?” is optional)
I think I’d probably want to be a man, but I would like knowledge of my previous life as a woman.
2. Which 3 visual artists had the greatest influence on your career and work?
My first love was and still is Michelangelo. I just love his huge muscular figures and dramatic sculptures. Then I would have to say once I started discovering modern illustrators and designers: Push Pin Studios – the kind of work they did and the way they combined illustration and design is what I want to do with my own career. And my third…well, its really hard to pick a favorite illustrator – but probably Jillian Tamaki.
3. Which 3 musicians’ music most closely resembles a soundtrack to your life?
Belle & Sebastian, Simon & Garfunkel, and MIKA.
4. If you could change one significant aspect of your talent, what would that be?
I would like a photographic memory.
5. Assuming cost is no obstacle, which 3 cities would you most prefer to live in?
New York City, San Francisco, Austin.
6. Imagine you are driving on an open, gently curving highway with a guarantee of no police, no other drivers, and perfect weather conditions. What kind of car would you want to drive and how fast
would you go?
I would like to drive a yellow Lamborghini Diablo and I would be driving 88mph.
7. Which current global calamity would you fix with one all-powerful wish? (ie. global warming, HIV/AIDS, starvation, …)
8. If you were given $250,000 to spend on a new wardrobe by a single designer/brand, which would you choose?
John Galliano – but $250,000 probably wouldn’t get me that much, haha.
9. Do you like porn?
10. Which museum would you most want to host your first post-mortem career survey?
Metropolitan Museum of Art. My mother walked through that museum as she was going into labor with me – so its only appropriate my art ends up there after I’m dead.
11. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? (name the City too)
Harold’s New York Style Deli – Edison, NJ. Unlimited pickle bar, need I say more?
12. What superpower would you find most useful? (flying, invisibility, indestructible… Feel free to answer why)
I would like to be able to tell if people are lying – I wouldn’t want to read their minds, that would probably drive me crazy. But to know whether or not someone was being honest with me would be pretty helpful.
13. Have you ever been in a fist fight in which blood was spilled? (feel free to offer a brief description)
Yes, I took tae kwon do when I was younger and kicked this boy in the face and his nose started bleeding. It was totally deserved though – when he was matched up against me he started laughing because I was a girl. I showed him who was boss.
14. Do you get road rage?
15. Do you inhale?
If you mean air, yes.
16. Do you have any phobias? (feel free to explain which)
I have a fear of walking down stairs with other people behind me. My brother once pushed me down the stairs when I was younger, and ever since then I get very uneasy.
17. Do you think it is better to ask for permission or beg for forgiveness?
Ask for permission.
18. If you were forced to spend one full year in solitary confinement in a small cell, what color would you want the walls to be?
19. What is the most important organ in your body?
20. Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yes, but no. In my mind I can’t believe that my soul (or whatever you’d like to call it) just disappears when I die – but at the same time, I can’t totally convince myself that this is true.
21. Should people who eat fish but don’t eat meat considered vegetarians?
No way in hell.
22. Do you know anyone living today with whom you’d happily trade lives? Who?
Nope, I’m happy just being myself.
23. Who is more important: Bono or Oprah?
You just listed two people I absolutely despise.
24. Do you tell lies?
Yes, but never maliciously.
25. Do you think it is better to be exceptionally intelligent with average charm or exceptionally charming with average intelligence?
Life would probably be easier if you were exceptionally charming, but I’d prefer exceptional intelligence.
26. If you could solve one of the great mysteries humanity has never been able to figure out, which would it be?
Is there a God?
27. If you could pick, which animal would you choose to live your next life as?
28. Who would you most like to play the part of you if a film were to be made about your life?
Selma Hayak, even though we look nothing alike.
29. What do you think about internet dating?
Strange, but sometimes necessary. It’s sad that there are so many lonely people there who want companionship – and it manifests itself in online dating.
30. What was the best or worst mistake you every made?
There is nothing I can think of just yet that I really regret. Probably small things, but I think mistakes often end up leading you in the right direction eventually.
31. Is there a subject matter you fixate on? What is it?
Muscular men. I am not a muscular man and I do not date muscular men so why I am so obsessed is somewhat unclear. But I am obsessed.