fanatic24″ x 30″, Mixed media on paper, 2005     (Collection of the Artist)

A person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm,  zeal, unbalanced or obsessive behavior. A person showing more than ordinary enthusiasm or support for a cause or belief, yes that would make The Best Man a fanatic. The question always was, So, who is Riel Benn?, and who (or what) is The Best Man? The Best Man is a complex and contradictory creation that began appear in Riel’s paintings when he was seventeen. In his artist statement Riel describes The Best Man as a trickster, a joker, an ignorant fool, a pessimist, a romantic failure, a man who plays both hero and villain, sometimes he even plays the victim. He’s The poet, the star and director. His look and outlook derive from many sources: from the skinny kid with long hair and glasses that was the teenage Riel; from the character of Simon Templar on the television show “The Saint”, who was a master of many disguises; from Gary Oldman’s role as the vampire in the 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, and later on, from Johnny Depp’s character in the 2005 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. And, of course from the Lakota Sioux trickster “Iktomi”, whose stories Riel heard while growing up. Viewers might also find in The Best Man’s demeanor traces of an old-time magician, a silent movie villain, a circus ringmaster and even the surrealist Salvador Dali. Still, The Best Man is a uniquely envisioned moral crusader with a sky blue heart, a twist of prayer beads, a little birdie who tells him everything and you can’t forget his trusty sidekick, the flying pig in a baseball cap, the pig of endless possibility. Since 1997 Riel and his Best Man have collaborated on over 30 paintings and 12 volumes of written word and poetry. – Riel Benn (Format by Allan j. Ryan)

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