New Limited Edition Silkscreen by Ana Benaroya

Ana Benaroya releases Artspace and Visual AIDS edition, The Nun's Litany, 2024

Ana Benaroya releases Artspace and Visual AIDS edition, The Nun's Litany, 2024

As a child Ana Benaroya would pore over superhero comics and pictures of athletes, Barbie Dolls took second place to action figures, and what she calls “tomboy pursuits”.

“I really identified with the masculine figure,” she says. “I loved how big and powerful it was, how it moved through the world and how people seemed to take that body seriously.”

Now, in her paintings and works on paper, The Jersey City-based artist constructs a female gaze that recasts women in dominant roles, their assertive presence characterised by an exaggerated, extravagant musculature.

Benaroya's naked female figures upset traditional expectations of femininity and radiate an energy which she says captures the essence and “intensity of lesbian desire.”

Alongside the comic books of her childhood, Benaroya cites Peter Saul, Renoir, Bonnard, and Matisse as influences and, perhaps more significantly, Tom of Finland.

“When I discovered Tom of Finland it was like one of those brain exploding moments," she says. "I saw the same muscular male physique that I saw in the world of mainstream comics, but instead it was totally queer. I was like, yeah, this feels more right.”

Benaroya immersed herself in learning how to draw every muscle of the body. “I needed to make my drawings so nobody would guess a girl drew it. It wasn’t until later, in college, that I became conscious of what I was doing.”

She loves music and learned piano and clarinet as a youngster. Indeed, many of her works - including her new Artspace edition The Nun’s Litany, 2024 - are titled after songs. While working in her studio, she’ll listen to music from the 1950s and ‘60s, as well as classic disco tracks. Celine Dion, The Beach Boys and Lesley Gore, to name just a few, also feature. 

“Music relates to the idea of pure emotion without rationality getting in the way," she says. "Good music connects to your heart before your brain has a chance to catch up. That’s how I try to make my paintings.”

The Nun’s Litany, 2024 her new Artspace edition, is a 13-color silkscreen with glitter layers, measuring 16 x 12.8 inches. It comes in an edition of 40, is signed, dated, and titled by Ana Benaroya on the back, and is $3,000 in a custom artist frame; $2,500 unframed. Proceeds from The Nun’s Litany, 2024  go to benefit the work of Visual AIDS.

She sees printmaking as integral to her practice, “as important as drawing or painting,” she says -  understandable for someone whose journey into art was via the printed page.
Benaroya is represented by Venus Over Manhattan and her work is held in the permanent collections of many public institutions, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, the Pérez Art Museum, Miami; and Zuzeum Art Center, Riga, and the Alex Katz Foundation New York, among others.
We asked Ana Benaroya about The Nun’s Litany, 2024 and her wider artistic practice.

 ANA BENAROYA - The Nun's Litany, 2024


Photography Garrett Carroll

A lot of your titles come from songs - is this a reference to the Magnetic Fields song, the lyrics of which seem to fit with the sexual dynamics going on in your work?

Yes. I've always loved this song by the Magnetic Fields. Their music always has a sense of humor about it while also addressing real emotions and real issues. That's something I'm always thinking about with my work as well, finding the balance between humor and seriousness. In this song the singer keeps listing things she wishes she could be - and it's unclear if she means it or not. Or maybe she means it but also knows no matter how hard she tries, she can never quite fit any of the roles she mentions. There's a tension between who she is and who she wishes she could be. I think this speaks to me as an artist, as I'm often creating these characters in my work who I wish I could inhabit. 

My work is sometimes sexual and sometimes not. I think because I am always depicting nude women there's no way to escape the lens of sexuality. Which is something I think this song is also about. Knowing this, I sometimes embrace it and sometimes try to reject it. Being a lesbian I think adds an additional layer to this because not only am I depicting nude women, which has a huge art historical precedent, but I am also depicting aspects of my own desire. I am both trying to free the female nude from the weight of all this historical (and contemporary) imagery - and also impart my own vision or desire onto it. It's somewhat contradictory. 


  ANA BENAROYA - The Nun's Litany, 2024 (detail) 

Photography Garrett Carroll


What does the title ‘The Nun’s Litany ’ mean to you, personally? When I think of nuns, I think of women who have run to God to escape being forced into a relationship with a man. Of course, this is partially just my own fantasy of imagining all women are actually lesbians - so I'm certainly not unbiased! When I've listened to this song, I've always imagined the woman singing it is a lesbian listing out all the things she wishes she could be so she could fit into society. 

What does the ‘starburst’ coming off her fingers signify? A depiction of supreme power at her fingertips? Yes, I think the starburst signifies power or maybe magic. She is in a position of prayer - so she's wishing for something to happen for her. And she is also knowingly looking at you, the viewer, inviting you to also take part in her prayer. I think the starburst signifies the wish that she holds inside her head - the invisible thought. 


  ANA BENAROYA - The Nun's Litany, 2024

Photography Garrett Carroll


Without wishing to get too autobiographical, do you find elements of the nun in your own character? Thankfully I am lucky enough that I do not need to become a nun to live the life I want to live! But I suppose living the life of an artist isn't too different than being a nun. We spend long hours in isolation, alone with our own thoughts and desires. Instead of God we channel our thoughts into physical objects - be that paintings, drawings, sculpture, or something else. The studio can be a place of emotional ecstasy or torment!

You like to work in series, aimed at one particular subject or show. Was this work part of a particular group of works? Last year I started a series of paintings inhabited by angels and devils. I became really interested in the story of Lucifer as told in Paradise Lost - I found myself really sympathizing with his story. He simply wanted to share in the power of creation with God - and for trying to do so he was kicked out of Heaven. I related to this as an artist, as someone trying to create their own world through their work. I was also really interested in the morality of the angel and the devil as it related to women's bodies. I often like playing with two extreme ends of a spectrum in my work - with masculinity and femininity - so this seems like an interesting layer on top of that. 

It’s interesting how you subvert and stylise musculature to such a degree. I know you grew up on Marvel comics but what was it about the visual depiction of physical power in those comics that appealed? I really identified with so many of the (mostly male) superheroes that were depicted in those Marvel and DC stories. And I learned how to draw by copying those bodies - be it the X-Men or Spider-Man or Superman. I became obsessed with muscles! I think I connected with these male storylines because it was a way to place my own desires into the stories I was reading and the movies I was watching. The only love stories I saw that involved women were heterosexual ones - so naturally my imagination filled the space of the man. It took many years before I found a way to translate this visual language in a way that I was able to depict my own story. 

 Ana Benaroya signing The Nun's Litany, 2024  photography Nir Arieli

The muscles have stayed I think because they represent the ability to transform your body. They represent a limitless possibility to expand and take up space. I also think for me they represent my own discomfort within my own body, within femininity. Muscles are my way out. 

You studied screen printing as an undergrad at MICA and at Yale during your Master’s. What attracts you to the process and what importance do prints and editions hold for you? What initially drew me into art as a kid was the printed page. Whether that was the comic book, the magazine, an illustration or a movie poster - this sort of visual language is what got me excited and made me want to draw. Continuing to make prints allows me to feel connected to this first love as an artist. It feels true to the little kid in me.

I absolutely love the process of screen printing - it is the perfect fit for my visual language. I first started screen printing because I had an interest in concert posters - something I used to create for many years. I love the idea of visually reducing an image to a few colors - then figuring out the puzzle of creating all the layers so you can print the image in the most efficient manner. I view each print I make as an original work of art. To me it holds as much importance as a painting or a drawing. 


 Ana Benaroya - The Nun's Litany, 2024 photography Garrett Carroll

You were a well-regarded illustrator for a while, what made you jump back into fine art, and how did the move from creating a perhaps more literal visual narrative (illustration) to perhaps a more open-ended narrative (fine art) come about for you? Even when I was working as an illustrator, I viewed myself as an artist. I was always making my own personal work and had a vision of what my work meant to me. The transition happened pretty naturally as I became more and more interested in the work I was making for myself rather than for a client. This led me to take the leap and apply to graduate schools - to afford myself the time to focus and develop my work in a way I knew that it deserved. I think I bring many important skills and lessons with me from my time as an illustrator - I'm grateful I had a decade working in that field before turning to my more personal work. 

You’re known for your use of complementary colors (the yellow and purple of the edition are particularly striking). What attracts you to this kind of chromatic dissonance? For the Fauves it freed colour from its depictive role, what does it do for you? I've always been drawn to really bright colors. To me they've always symbolized the loudness of all the thoughts and emotions that are going on in my head. The color of a piece has to match the intensity of the image - I want it to scream at you from across the room. Also, this is perhaps a bit simplistic, but bright vibrating colors really bring me joy. Playing with color brings me joy. It's one of the great pleasures of working on a print or painting - solving the color problems that come up. When I see a work of art that has the most perfect color harmonies or color dissonance it literally makes my heart skip a beat in excitement. 


 Ana Benaroya holding The Nun's Litany, 2024 photography Nir Arieli

Some of the proceeds from this edition go to Visual AIDS, what aspect of their work do you admire most? I admire all the work they do to remember and recognize all the artists we have lost to AIDS - as well as continuing to recognize artists that are living with HIV. Art is the perfect language and mediator to bring people together over issues that sometimes can divide us. It is through art that I think we can continue to see the humanity in each other - and I love that Visual AIDS has found a way to utilize the power of art to help raise awareness and advocacy around AIDS.

Take a closer look at The Nun’s Litany, 2024 here.


a treasure trove of fine art from the world's most renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. We offer exclusive works you can't find anywhere else.


through exclusive content featuring art news, collecting guides, and interviews with artists, dealers, collectors, curators and influencers.


authentic artworks from across the globe. Collecting with us means you're helping to sustain creative culture and supporting organizations that are making the world a better place.


with our art advisors for buying advice or to help you find the art that's perfect for you. We have the resources to find works that suit your needs.


Artspace offers you authentic, exclusive works from world-renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. Collecting with us helps support creative culture while bringing you art news, interviews and access to global art resources.