He has won prizes for his paintings since the age of 7 ! Now all grown up, his paintings have moved away from the ledger-style of his early youth, to demonstrate a mature proficiency.
This dramatic painting reflects the Kiowa culture of his mother, but the exceptional skill it demonstrates probably comes from his father, the famous painter, Bennie Nelson, Yellowman.
There is a fabulous mix of painting techniques here: the face and the eagle feathers are stark, with a flat effect. Compelling and forceful, they are stylized, rather than naturalistic.
The background, and the figure’s breastplate, and other adornments, are breathtaking in their realism and dimensionality.
The jingle earrings, and those hanging from the pink circles, are so real, it is almost impossible to believe they are painted. In fact, I first thought Ben had attached real metal to the canvas.
Similarly, the fur pelts, hanging below, seem touchably real, and attached to the front of the canvas. The beads in the breastplate are also expertly rendered in three-dimensions.
The background, above and below, also exhibits mature mastery of the medium. The colors and ephemeral shapes are impressive demonstration of painterly ease and confidence.
Notice that there is consistent repetition of wispy strokes: in the feathers, the hair, the fur, and the beads.
Likewise, circular forms are also repeated: in the face paint, the eyes, the pink circles, and the rounded beads.
This juxtaposition of non-objective abstraction, uber-realism, and flat-field painting is remarkable. It grabs, and holds, the eye.
This is a remarkable painting, showing the fluid mastery of a mature artist, together with a powerful esthetic and emotional impact.