The Latin phrase tabula rasa, translates to English as “blank slate.” It refers to the idea that we are born without preconceived notions or innate traits, that our ideas and ways of being are “written” by our experiences. Taking this notion one step further, psychologists and neuroscientists now believe that we are the architects of what we perceive to be real. We learn to understand and categorize our experiences and the world around us through a social reality that we create collectively through language. “Tabula Rasa,” a solo exhibition of the work of Ben Quesnel, inspires viewers to quite literally play with the mechanisms by which meaning, categorization, and identity (in short, reality) are constructed and disseminated.

Quesnel’s work draws from the material lexicon of contemporary childhood. As children, we learn to perceive ourselves as individuals, assembling the concept and experience of being a “self” acting in the world. Quesnel’s paintings, sculptures, and an interactive installation riff off of the bright colors and visual styles of psychological tests and stuffed animal toys, bringing us back to the wonder and anxiety of a time when every experience is new.

Written by Alexandra Hammond.


Ben Quesnel distorts familiar objects often gathered from tag sales, neighborhood auctions, and community recycling centers. His decontextualized forms challenge viewers to apprehend the meanings that have been attached to these objects and to evaluate them with a new understanding. He alters the location and position of the objects he finds in order to create unexpected discoveries and new experiences for those who encounter his work.