MOUNT STERLING — Graphic artist Ben Wiseman hopes he provides a welcome curve ball to the countless images people are inundated with, every day.
"We've kind of seen everything once or twice or how many times," the Lexington native says. "With my work, I'm trying to combine things or shift things or twist things to make everyday objects seem fresh. I think my main goal is for people to stop and look, more than anything."
Wiseman, 28, is a graphic artist whose work has graced the covers of books and various major publications such as Newsweek, TIME, Variety, The New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Currently based in Brooklyn, N.Y., he's established himself as a sought-after digital illustrator. But initially, Wiseman needed time to home in on his chosen medium.
Wiseman grew up in Lexington, the younger of two children. His parents, Bob and Rena, always gave him encouragement, making sure he had paint sets and markers to scratch his creative itch as a child.
When considering colleges, he didn't quite know what career in the arts he wanted to pursue, but he did know where he wanted to go.
"I didn't really have a game plan," he said. "I just wanted to go to New York, and art school was a way to do that."
Wiseman didn't just get into an art school in New York. He became a student at the prestigious Parsons School of Design. He dabbled in multiple mediums in his foundation year before settling on a major in communication design, i.e. illustration. He got an internship and helped design book covers his last two years before graduating in 2008.
"I was luckily able to do work that caught the eye of the right people," he said.
It's not hard to see why Wiseman's work was so intriguing to publications. It's influenced by Pop Art, but he has developed a signature style, with almost every piece featuring bold colors, simple shapes and a clever use of images and iconography to create a clever message.
"I think (my pieces) all do say something. I think that's why people hire me," Wiseman says. "I can make a pretty image and I work well with color, but what makes it unique is it can have a subtext to it."
Wiseman's work has ended up in a lot of places and has been seen by a lot of eyes, but the one place it hasn't ended up is in an art gallery. His first showcase was at the offices of The New York Times, but his first true art exhibit is currently happening now in his home state.
Twenty-six of his pieces are on display and for sale for the first time at The Gateway Regional Arts Center in Mount Sterling, through May 1. Cay Lane, executive director at Gateway, thinks Wiseman's art and his story both have potential to connect with a lot of people.
"His graphics are clever, they're bright, they're inviting to look at and I think they really speak to our younger generation," Lane says. "Plus, Ben is young himself, which helps to have an exhibit that relates to our young adults, but it will relate to everybody."
During Wiseman's exhibit, it wasn't just his work that was speaking to people. Wiseman himself took some time prior to the exhibit's April 10 opening to speak with art students from local middle schools, his alma mater Lexington Catholic High School and Morehead State University. As much as he hopes his work catches the eyes and minds of viewers, he also has enjoyed being able to share his own success story in the art world.
"When I was in high school, I didn't envision the career path that I have. I didn't know it existed," he says. "There's ways to be creative and support yourself. It was nice to show them, maybe, an unexpected career path."