Thomas W. Benton: Artist / Activist

Thomas W. Benton: Artist / Activist

By Daniel Joseph Watkins

Hi guys – delighted to bring you details of this fantastic new book by Daniel Joseph Watkins. Below is the press release and I will have a review up tomorrow.

Ok for now,


Launch event and signing are this week


Nationally recognized poster artist Tom Benton visually documented the issues and conflicts of Aspen and America for four decades beginning in the turbulent late 1960s. Two years after Benton’s death in 2007, Daniel J. Watkins embarked on a journey “into the barns and basements and attics of old Aspen,” according to the Aspen Daily News, to unearth and catalog more than five hundred of his works, many of them previously unknown.

The result is Thomas W. Benton: Artist/Activist, a coffee-table book that chronicles the life and political activism of the artist with 150 images of his work. Artist / Activist follows Benton from his early days in Aspen, which he considered a kind of Shangri-la threatened by money and development, through his disillusionment with politics and experimentation with different art forms.

In conjunction with the Aspen Art Museum, there will be a book release party on WednesdayJuly 13 at the Sky Hotel from 5-7 p.m. Featuring original Benton works, food, drinks and a discussion with associate curator Matthew Thompson, this event is open to the public.

On Saturday, July 16, join Watkins at Explore Booksellers at 7 p.m. for a book reading, and question and answer session.

Cataloging political movements and elections from 1968 to 2006, Benton’s silkscreen posters are a powerful visual account of the issues and campaigns that shaped history. In addition to numerous candidates and issues in Aspen, Benton created political posters for presidential candidates George McGovern and Gary Hart, and against President Nixon.

The book includes never-before-published images of the Aspen Wallposters, a collaboration of Benton’s art and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s writing that promoted their Freak Power movement. Benton’s later works, including abstract silkscreens, monotypes and paintings, are also explored in relation to the artist’s life and philosophies. Artist / Activist also documents Benton’s commercial work in Aspen as a signmaker/printmaker and architect.

The first major collection of Benton’s artwork to be published, Artist / Activist also includes ten poems by close friend and lyricist Joe Henry, a foreword by George S. Stranahan, and an introduction by art history professor Hal Elliott Wert. Watkins’ catalog of Benton’s work plus a blog can be found online at

“Tom Benton integrated strong and powerful graphic symbolism into the political fray of our times. His simple yet monumental approach to what needed to be said gave a voice to those who wished to be seen and heard. He remains a powerful example of commitment in a world gone wrong.”

—Ralph Steadman, Gonzo artist

“Tom Benton’s avant-garde anti-war, cause, and political posters place him in the center of a small number of great propaganda artists of the last century. Even those quite knowledgeable of poster art will be treated to dozens of posters rarely seen, if at all. This well-designed book is a major contribution to the history of political art.”

— Hal Elliott Wert, Kansas City Art Institute history professor, author of Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints

“As an artist, Benton used ink and paint and paper and passion and strong alliances to speak what had to be spoken. This very fine publication is a sentinel to Benton’s immortality.”

—Bob Braudis, former Pitkin County sheriff


“Watkins’ sparse and workmanlike prose, alongside the visual assault of Benton’s staggering work, amount to … a testament to the little known span of the artist’s triumphs.”

—Andrew Travers, Aspen Daily News

Thomas W. Benton: Artist / Activist

Daniel Joseph Watkins

People’s Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-936905-90-4

August 2011 / $39.95

Hardcover, 195 pages


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