Between Terminals A-East and B

October 13, 2012 - May 19, 2013


Philadelphia artist Ellen Benson is known for using ordinary, common objects to create an ongoing series of small-scale, 

doll-like figures. Benson salvages anything that she deems visually inspiring. As she has said, “art materials are everywhere.” From broken doll parts, ceramic figurines, buttons, and vintage jewelry to old tools, empty seasoning containers, plastic pill bottles, fabric, and beads -- she assembles these once disparate, discarded items into one-of-a-kind, hand-sized figures. Benson’s process is often intuitive as she describes looking at a bottle cap and imagining a doll’s little hat or old paint brushes as legs.


Inspired by Latin American folk art, Benson travels annually to Mexico and Guatemala to visit local artisans -- weavers, woodcarvers, ceramicists, and mask makers. Influenced by their textile patterns and colors, figurative sculpture, and traditions, Benson’s figures are similarly primitive and mystical. Yet her unexpected combination of imagery and found objects add a sense of whimsy. Over the years, Benson has created more than 600 dolls with a goal of making 1,000. Seen en masse, it is amazing that one person handcrafted them all. Benson’s passion for her work is obvious as she dedicates much of her creative time to what she collectively refers to as “diva dolls -- a family, a friendship circle, a tribe.”