Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Hello, I'm Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to, or watching Radio Maine.  Today, I have with me artist MJ Benson. Thanks for coming in.


 

MJ Benson:

It's my pleasure. It's great to be here. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

It's also my pleasure to see not only you but this piece behind me which is really quite something. I want to start with you telling me about it. 


 

MJ Benson: 

This is called Phoenix and it was done in the fall of 2020; which we all know was a pretty crazy time. There was a lot going on in my life and a lot going on in the world.  I would go into the studio and just paint like a crazy person. There was a lot of gesture, a lot of thick paint, a lot of emotion going on in this piece. I really like my pieces to be… they're abstract, first of all, but they're definitely recognizable as landscapes.  I like them to be on this edge of dark and light. Some people look at them and they think, oh, that's scary. And some people look at them and they think, oh, that's like light coming out of scariness. So they have very different sorts of responses to them. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And this one in particular is kind of funny because I painted it, I hung it, it was actually in a show and then I changed it because it wasn't quite how I wanted it. So ironically, the name is Phoenix, so this is actually Phoenix II. And it actually kind of rose from the ashes of what I didn't like about it. And I changed it and I actually made it darker up on the top.  But it's sort of metaphorically very appropriate to 2020 of this sort of rising from all this craziness that was unexpectedly thrown at us. And also, it was a very dark time in many ways, for me, personally, especially because my brother passed away. So that was very difficult, but it was also a time when I realized that I created this really beautiful life up here that with everyone home and realized how strong my friendships were, how wonderful it was to be able to practice up here as an artist and the support of that community. So there's this beautiful light in this piece as well kind of coming out of this darkness. So, yes, and it's one of my favorites, although it's kind of like kids where they're all like, they're all my favorites if that makes sense. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Is it meant to be an ocean with a reflected sky or is that just me reading into it?


 

MJ Benson: 

Yes, it is meant to be that. When I do my work, whether or not you can sense it in a representational way, my work is all about the horizon, literally the horizon. The ocean has always been my home, my muse, my place of comfort and challenge, too. Because I swim a lot in the ocean - I have three different wetsuits so I swim as much as I can.  I had an instructor a long time ago who talked about the horizon as the break between where you can breathe and where you can't. Sort of like between the ocean and the sky and also the land and the sky as well and the ocean. So yes, you are definitely seeing a landscape in there and reflected sky in the ocean. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So what was it like to go through 2020 and all the external turmoil, but then also lose someone that is very dear to you? 


 

MJ Benson: 

It was really intense. Was it Dickens  who wrote “The best of times. The worst of times?”  It's a human condition to have those two things.  It was really intense. It was deeply, like I was saying about my family and the community, it was deeply comforting in some ways, how we all pulled together and how we figured out how to sit outside and how I went out and shopped for my neighbors who couldn't leave because they were in quarantine and they did it for me too. That kind of thing.


 

MJ Benson: 

I really loved having my kids at home, at least most of the time, and even having my husband home from work, which was kind of … he doesn't enjoy that, but he still, we all just rallied together, but then it was so heartbreaking to see people struggling with their businesses and struggling with their livelihoods and their lives and concern for their loved ones, especially our elders, their lot of people were really worried about them.  And then of course my brother had sarcoma and was going through that and sarcoma, at least how it worked for him was he was fine. He was fine. And then suddenly he wasn't and he was gone very quickly. That was really, that was really difficult. I remember my sister throwing her hands up in the air and just saying, okay, what's next?  What could you possibly do more,  to us, but, yes, it was pretty intense, but it was definitely part of my creative work too. I was to be able to go to the studio and throw myself sometimes literally, at my work.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

It was also a time where we were still trying to figure out how to mourn people, and how to gather, to lay people to rest if you happen to need a funeral in order to do that.  So how did your family handle that? 


 

MJ Benson: 

My family is very stoic which they're very proud of.  So there's a lot of emotion in my family, but they're also like, okay, buck up and we'll get through this. My dad is a very, very positive person. He can see the silver lining in pretty much anything. And I remember when I talked to him a few hours after my brother died, my dad said, we had him for 40 years longer than we should have, which kind of surprised me. And I said, what are you talking about? He said, because he'd been in a really bad car accident in college that I'd forgotten about, but of course my father would never forget that. So that's what he sees, he saw that. 


 

MJ Benson: 

So there wasn't a lot of chest beating and, and wailing around it. Of course everyone was heartbroken, but we all knew we couldn't gather. So we connected with each other as best we could, over the phone, on zoom.  My parents live right near us. And my sister was here when he died. So we all spent time together and my father, my parents are 87, said just hug me. I don't care. So it was very sweet. I think in some ways, having it be difficult to travel or not being able to travel made it easier, at least on my parents, that they didn't feel like they had to be there. And I know my brother didn't want anybody around, sort of in that same stoic demeanor, so it was easier for him to say, oh, you can’t come because of COVID, but we did plan. And we did have a big party, because he wanted an Irish wake. He wanted no black, he wanted no crying. He wanted lots of beer drinking, and so we had our own version of an Irish wake here in Maine. 


 

MJ Benson: 

His whole family came from Colorado and California so we were able to mourn just later. I guess mourning has changed just in terms of, we can't gather at a wake, we can't gather, or we couldn't have gathered in a church. Not that we would've done that anyway, but, we just found other ways to acknowledge him and I'm certainly doing that through my art too. I got a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to do an artist project grant, which is so exciting. 


 

MJ Benson: 

There's nothing so validating. It's wonderful. It's like, yes, we believe in your work and we wanna help you out. It's great.  And part of that is actually using earth pigments and stone and things like that from the areas where I'll be plein air painting and incorporating them into the work. And it's in part because my brother was a geologist, he was the black sheep in the family. He was a scientist and we were all artists and creative people and inventors and designers. So he was the, sort of, nerdy black sheep. He was always, I don’t know if you remember the earthquake we had here, that little earthquake? I would call him and be like, did you see anything? And he’d type up and look on his sort of nerdy, like, I can't remember what the people who study earthquakes, what they're called.. seismologists, that's I was thinking Volcanologist, no, that's, that's sort of close. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And so he'd go online and say, oh yes, there was a blah, blah, blah, it was centered in blah, and so I would always talk to him about really interesting things related like between art and science specifically, excuse me, geology. And part of my sort of mourning and honoring him is to do that work, incorporate it with my work. So, and yes, I've reached out to a couple of other geologists in the area to have them help me because normally I’d just call my brother and say, tell me about this rock. So I'm trying to do a little bit of both there, if that makes sense. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

That's so interesting because you described your connection with water and then your brother's connection is sort of earth and stone and you're kind of coming back towards, towards his element in a means of honoring him. 


 

MJ Benson: 

That's a really good way to look at it. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Yes. So what are you learning? 


 

MJ Benson:  

I'm learning that geology is complicated and, it's very visual, interestingly enough, because I know you're looking at work and also feeling it and also that really the line between art and science is so blurry. It really is. And I think I remember listening when I was younger to people like Einstein and Neil Degrass Tyson and people like that and realizing that science and math in particular to me at a certain point becomes art because it's so you have to think outside these bounds. And so I think I'm just literally physically trying to put them together in a way. That makes sense if that answers your question, but 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Yes, it is really interesting because I think we've been in the last, I don't know, almost two years now we've been talking about following the science but people's idea of what the science is, is so much more concrete than what science actually is. 


 

MJ Benson:

Exactly. Yes. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

 So, when you talk to people who really are scientists, a lot of what they do is question. Yes. So we're supposed to follow the people who are looking for answers and questioning which is probably something that you've been doing with your art. I would think for probably most of the time you've been doing it. 


 

MJ Benson: 

Oh yes. One of my big things has always been to push the boundaries of materials.  Even as a photographer, I used to use a plastic camera and it was terrible for light leaks and it was just such a monster to deal with. And photography is so precise and people are very like, your F stops and your the balance of your chemicals and all that. That's good stuff. And, I was going in the other direction, like just letting the whims of life, that sounds really dramatic, but letting the whims of the camera sort of dictate how I responded to it. Of course I was doing landscapes at that point. Then the other thing with not just photography, but with painting is, and I've had so many discussions with different companies, like Gamblin and Golden and R&F Paints, which do encaustic work, just to talk to them about how I can combine materials, because there's certain effects that I want, but I don't want it falling off. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And my work is not about something that's gonna fall apart. I'm not looking for something to get auctioned off and then have a machine go on and shred it like that Banksy piece. I want my stuff to stay around, but it is a constant play. I think as artists, it's our job to push those materials, to make people think about things in a different way. There's the consistent professionality of showing up and having your vision and your focus and really diving deeply into one thing, but you also really have to play and you have to push those boundaries because that's really our job, I think too. And I think that scientists and doctors and epidemiologists do that as well. That they have to really think, we've never seen this. Like how do we, how do we manage it? How do we deal with it? You know? But you have to use what you have in place. Your protocols, your what you already know, and then go from there. If that makes sense. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Yes, yes, I think it does. And I think, I think that you're right, that you have to use the tools that you have in front of you as not a way to be kind of hammed in, but as sort of a structure that you're continually moving to use towards other purposes, but does require some experimentation and a willingness to maybe not succeed the first time you try.


 

MJ Benson: 

Yes. That's for sure. When I used to teach, I would spend – I taught photography,  mostly to adults and teenagers, which most people, not the adults so much, but the teenagers, people would ask well why would you want to teach them? And I said, because they're old enough to know what's interesting and what they like, but they're young enough that they don't really know what they're like. They're still open. They can be challenging, but anyway – but with adults in particular and teenagers, to some extent I spend most of my time unlearning, like unlearning that they had all these biases about their own abilities that they're, oh, I can't do that. And I had to teach them how to think about it, I had them think about what they were trying to do versus what they actually did and that both were good. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And that's how they learned was experimenting and kind of playing back and forth and being willing to fail. I had a teacher, I went to the Museum School in Boston and I had, there was a photography teacher who I had, I was his teaching fellow for years and love this guy, Jim Dow. And he had another really well known photographer come and speak to us and Martin Parr, who was part of, oh my gosh,  the Magnum agency. And so he came and he showed us all his big fancy stuff. And of course we students thought, wow, how do you do that? And we can't do that. Or, we don’t that kind of stuff and, and he stopped and he thought, and he said out loud, I should have shown you guys everything I screwed up because that you're seeing decades of success, but what you're not seeing are the decades of failures, which are a hundred times more than that one piece that you're seeing. So yes, I totally agree that we have to fall on our faces to get anywhere, if that makes sense. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Yes. Sure.  In my field it's called the practice of medicine. So  patients don't like the idea that we might be practicing on them, but yes, there is a reality to this idea that when you first start out, you probably do things you have to kind of keep tinkering with the way that you approach situations. And you get better at it over time.


 

MJ Benson: 

Yes. And everything's different even between my kids who are only 20 months apart. And the difference between midwifery you know that time period was huge. Like they did everything completely different 20 months later and it was just nuts. But yes, it's kind of, I have to say, I've always felt, I love my doctor Megan Staton, who's amazing. I don't if you know her, but she's wonderful. Yes. She's amazing. She's the kind of doctor who, if she can't figure out what I need, she'll say, we'll figure it out together and she'll give me ideas and things that– and we're talking about like, I don't <laugh> I don't want to get her in trouble. I don't think I would, but it's like this isn't, you don’t need a blood test for this. This is like, you have a headache and we haven't figured out why you have it? Maybe it could be this or that or whatever. So people who are confident enough in their abilities to say,  maybe I don't know, but let's figure it out together, or let's figure it out, or let me look into it some more, that's just super important to have that ability. Too it’s kind of, it's an issue of confidence and experience in some ways, but I don't know. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

 It's also an ability to build trust with someone exactly where, with Megan who, by the way, she went to residency around the time that I did at Maine Medical Center. So I do actually know Megan well. 


 

MJ Benson:

Wonderful. Yes. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And, it's an ability to have enough of a relationship with someone else that you can say,  I don't really know, and that other person can say, okay. They're willing to be part of that uncertainty with you. And that actually is also part of, kind of the practice of relationship building over time. 


 

MJ Benson:

Yes, I think you also have to have a certain amount of confidence and trust in yourself, and how do we build that? But, and for me, when I was teaching, it was like, how do I help people get there? So they feel like –  and even sometimes for my own work, I might have a big, beautiful piece that everyone loves, but I just don't feel right about it. And I haven't finished it yet. And it's in the studio and people have come to see it and I'll do something crazy, like throw some wacko paint on it. But I have to, I have to feel confident enough to know that I can… I don't know if “fix it” is the right word, but to get it where it wants to go. 


 

MJ Benson:

And that's really challenging. So yes, it's kind of having that balance of those two things. Or doing something really large, just something different. Like I did a huge painting,  72 by 72 inches, which I decided not to bring today. I'm kidding. Not that I could get it here easily. But that was so much fun. And then also making smaller pieces or using a totally different material or a non square shape or something. There's just so many directions you could go. So yes, it's really exciting. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

When we interviewed you for the off the wall publication that we do, You mentioned that you got kicked out of high school. I, and I wouldn't ask you this, except you it's actually published. So tell me about that. 


 

MJ Benson: 

It's a whole hilarious thing because when my kids were getting older, they're 16 and 18 now, and we were talking with friends about college and how to prepare for that. And I would say, I got kicked out just because people get crazy about that. There's a great book that, oh my gosh, what's his name? He wrote, “it's what you do, where you go is out who you'll be.” It's a great book about college, but anyway, that's another story.  But I would say,  you have to kind of calm down about it a little bit because I got kicked out of high school, but I have a graduate degree from Harvard. Like, so you just never know what's gonna happen. And it's really funny cuz people always assume it was drinking or some crazy thing that I did. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And in fact,  it was academic and it was academic in that I decided when I was in seventh or eighth grade that I was gonna be an artist and a writer and I didn't really need to bother with everything else. So I would get and I'd classes and I'd get three A's and three F's and I was in a private school and they rightfully said we can't give you a diploma with this. They really couldn't and I don't blame them. So I was asked to leave after my junior year because I was just not willing to put in the work for this stuff that I wasn't interested in because I was a very stubborn teenager. So, but alas, here we are, I'm an artist and not very many people know my writing. It's a different part of my life. 


 

MJ Benson: 

But I also went to Harvard for graduate school. So, it's kind of, you just never know.  I tend to invoke,  people like, oh my gosh, what's his name? Bill Gates, who never, he never finished Harvard. So other people like that or Einstein who failed math in sixth grade. So it's all to sort of make me feel better about doing something that people think is very out of the norm. So that's the big got kicked out of high school story. Everyone thought, oh my god, you got caught drinking or you got in it. It's not, it was about me, who I was like. I knew what I wanted to do and I didn't really care to do the rest of it. So sometimes that gets in my way. But oftentimes that attitude gets me through things too, if that makes sense. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

I would think it lends itself if you're in seventh grade and already knowing this. It kind of lends itself to a kind of confidence, you know? 


 

MJ Benson:

Yes, yes. A little bit. It was, like my husband and I always say we want strong, confident children and, we got strong confident children and it –  my parents were always sort of appalled. They're like, oh no, she's no, you’re not doing well, you’re just gonna get kicked out. And they really wanted me to tow the line so I could have more choices. But on the other hand they were the ones who were like, be yourself, do your own thing, find your own path, be an individual. So it was a little like, question authority, but not to your mother kind of thing I think. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

My family was like that actually.


 

MJ Benson: 

Yes. And we find our way, but I think we all know that's a difficult path to constantly be fighting one thing or another when it's a lot easier to just follow the flow. And I think that my parents were in the – and I am often with my kids in that sort of like, oh, how do I make sure you're doing what you want? You're happy and you're being creative if you want to, but you're also able to keep a roof over your head and that kind of thing. I think that's really, that was that fear, that parental fear of my kid not being able to take care of themselves at some point. So yes. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: :

Yes. That, that makes sense. When I think about my own children, I would want the same things for my own children. I want them to question authority, but I also want them to be able to care for themselves. Yes. And really, because I think there are struggles associated with not being able to care for yourself. 


 

MJ Benson: 

Oh yes. And you wanna be able to have that flexibility to be able to, you know, like I can do this crazy thing, but I can come home to a warm meal and a roof over my head and maybe a dog curled up on the couch. And there's one other thing I was gonna say… oh, well it's gone from my head. It'll come back. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So what about the writing? What do you do with your writing?


 

MJ Benson: 

I do a lot of journal writing. I've written a lot of short stories and things like that, but those are very, like, I've never, like, <laugh> you're like: I wanna know more about that because you don't, you said that’s another part of your life.  But it's very, it's sort of very private stuff. Just like things I write and I don't it's funny because I, art is a very, I've always felt very confident in that world, but the world of writing and writers and that and publishing because of course I don't think about it just for my own pleasure or gradification or whatever it's it's also, I have to think about, oh, how could I,  get this out into the world too. I'm always thinking about that part of it. But I don't feel as confident with that with my writing. So I will, I will probably keep that to myself for a while, but you never know. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

There is a certain amount of exposure that goes along with writing. Very, very similar to art. I mean with art, you put it in front of other people and they're gonna think what they're gonna think. And writing is very similar. You can, you can frame things the way that you want to, but people will read what they're gonna read into it. So it's not that strange for you to be concerned about how people might respond. 


 

MJ Benson: 

Exactly. It's kind of a, it's just a different world. And of course I have, I always think of myself as like, oh, I can do all these things. But then not necessarily as I've gotten older, although it has happened in some way. But I think as you get older, you get more efficient. You get smarter about how you work, even though you might not have the energy that you had. Like I don't wanna be 20 years old again but I wish I had that energy. I really do. But I know there's only so much I can do and I don't wanna pull away from the things that are right in front of me that I'm deeply interested in knowing more about; with my painting in particular. So I don't want to, I don't wanna sap any energy from that. So I think the writing is, is – I also don't want that to become something that's too important as well. Like that, that I feel like I have to make that as important as the painting too, if that makes sense. I kind of wanna maintain the energy that I have toward what I'm doing right now. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So journaling for yourself is a very legitimate and worthwhile endeavor. Right? You don't necessarily have to censor or edit or bring to the surface. So, I often think of writing, at least my own writing, I think of it as having a seasonality to it almost where, there's the season where you're, you're kind of more inward and you're doing more kind of pondering and experimenting and you’re hibernating a little bit. 


 

MJ Benson: 

Exactly, exactly. Like this time of year when at 4:30pm it's midnight basically. Right, 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Right. Yes. So this is just not, it's not the season for your writing to be out yet. 


 

MJ Benson: 

Right. I like the way you put that yet that maybe it's a possibility,  maybe it's always that's right. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Yep. Let me ask you one last question. I know that you're also an athlete and you've done marathons and triathlons. You talked about your swimming. How does that work into your artistic life?


 

MJ Benson:

Oh, that's a really good question.  So when I was younger, when my kids were younger, running was my savior because I would get up at 4:30 in the morning and I would go run by myself, nobody around you're nodding like: yes I totally understand – And I wouldn't listen to music, I would just listen to the world around me and just pound the pavement. And it really, it kept my mind, my head screwed on straight so to speak.  Kept me happy during those sort of underwater times when your kids are so young, and so it really helped me. And then I transitioned into triathlons because I started raising money for the Maine Cancer Foundation through the Tri for a Cure, which as an event it's just amazing. And there's also one of the differences between just doing a run like one sport in particular. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And I was a cyclist before that too. So I was really confident as I'd ridden my bike hundreds, thousands of miles before that, but putting them all together is a very, it's a brainy activity. It's figuring out the transitions and figuring out,  how am I gonna get my shoes on and off? There's just, there's a, there's a different kind of thought behind it. That's not just about like, if you go out for a long run, like, okay, have I had enough water? Like there's all these things you think about with triathlons it’s three times multidimensional. So it's really fun figuring that out. But, one of the things we're doing lately with my husband and my son, who's 16, who's like, he's kind of a giraffe at this point.  But he's lifting weights, we're lifting weights, like heavy weights, like powerlifting and it's been so fun. It's just really, it's amazing. And it's really, it's about having a healthy body, but also about keeping your brain active and it's really been good for all of us to just sort of, when we're done lifting, we just feel like a million bucks. So yes, it really helps with keeping everything, brain and body happy and chugging along. So yes. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Yes. I'm thinking about my own, my youngest daughter and how she has gotten very much into CrossFit with her father, which it's been interesting for me to see over the last, I don't know how long she's been doing it, but let's say five years. And, how she really got into having that be so participatory.  I don't know that she ever would've done any kind of weightlifting if she hadn't had her father to encourage her. But it's funny that that's something that you're sharing with your son. 


 

MJ Benson: 

 It is interesting because when I met my husband, he was a bodybuilder, which is different from lifting, because, which I've learned, the subtleties are pretty interesting.  Because bodybuilding is about making yourself look good and being strong. I mean that's sort of part of it. So when I met him, of course, I was like, why don't you teach me about bodybuilding and it was sort of a bonding experience for us. It was really fun. And I loved the way I felt after I did it. And I was like, I'm gonna do this for the rest of my life. I love lifting weights. And then when we started doing it again, because we just had various changes in our lives. We have a friend who's a really well known bodybuilder, a weightlifter, and she recommended this gym in Westbrook. 


 

MJ Benson: 

And so I was like, why don't we go and do this together? Because that's kind of how we started off with doing this. And then,  thought,  we were leaving, we'd go Sunday mornings and my son would be on the couch playing video games. And I said, why don't you come and lift weights with us? And he was like, okay. So he came and I think he loves it now. We have a trainer who works with the three of us for an hour and he's – having other people help you out is great. And that's why, even though I have some issues with CrossFit, like how I think you can injure yourself pretty easily doing that, but that's just me. I love that it gets people together and people are working out a lot, and the community of people sort of, getting healthy together and supporting each other is great. So I'm glad your daughter's doing it with her dad. It's really fun. Yes. Also, I think like when I, so right now I can deadlift more than my son, but that's not gonna be for long. But to be like, yes, your mom is kicking your butt buddy. You know it is kind of a good feeling for me, but I know eventually he's just gonna like, blow me outta the water in that sense. But anyway, 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well I will tell you that you're right, because both of my daughters actually, when they see me, they will squeeze me very hard and hug me and then they like to try to lift me in the air so,  and they're usually successful. So I suspect your son will also do that. It's a question of kind of age and 


 

MJ Benson: 

Also youth age and youth. And just, I remember this is a great story about my brother. It's one of the funny things, I don't know, so my brother was a world class rower, and rowers are, they are strong. They're intense. So my brother was 6’5”, and he was 250 pounds without an ounce of fat on him. And there's this great story about when he was 18. He, my mother, I could hear from the other room, she's yelling, Rob, put your father down. And I ran into the room and my brother has my dad who is almost the same size over his head, like in a,  <laugh>  so I'm kind of waiting for the day when I'm like Satcher, put your father down, you know? So it is kind of amazing how, I don't know that the father's son, as they grow watching them be able to do those kinds of funny things, but I'm confident that my son will get there, but it does take a little bit of work and effort and again, confidence. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

My, and to be clear, my son could also lift me up. He just, oh yes, doesn't typically, but then my middle child is a swimmer and my youngest child is a rower. And so I think they also love the physicality that there's like a power involved in that.


 

MJ Benson:

That.  it's also my family besides being stoic, which they're probably going, what, what is she talking about? But they know what I'm talking about. They really do.  They're very competitive, super competitive. Monopoly at our house over the holidays was dark. It was brutal.  It was fun, but it was like, wow. So there's that competitive edge of when you're really physical. I'm also a Boston driver, that's where I learned how to drive. So I kind of tend to like, I wanna beat this guy, I'm gonna cut this guy off or whatever, which is really bad. It's tempered a lot since I moved here. But yes, there's that competitive edge. It's really fun, especially in families, as long as it's not too much, but it can be really fun. Like, Hey, can you pick up mom? I don't know. Can you? You little weak swimmer person, can you? Anyway, but I'm diving into the deep end with that,  so to speak, but,  that's 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Incredibly relatable because oh yes. In our family, we actually just had this conversation. We had a conversation about monopoly, I think. Not too long ago. So we get the competition thing.


 

MJ Benson: 

Yes. Monopoly and settlers of Catan is our new one that we do. And that one gets, it's hilarious to watch everybody with their different ways of trying to beat people. But yes, 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

MJ, I have very much enjoyed our conversation. 


 

MJ Benson:

Me too. Thank you. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I think there are a lot of similarities in our lives. We probably could continue to explore them further if we had more time. But I do encourage people to go to the Portland Art Gallery and see your work. Also see your work online and maybe visit with MJ at one of our upcoming artists openings. I've been speaking with artist MJ Benson who is really quite wonderful and I encourage you to get to know her and also her art. Thank you. 


 

MJ Benson:

Thank you. It's been great.