Local artist Jacki Allen-Benson’s work has several faces. Show is hanging in Gypsum library

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily
Local artist Jacki Allen-Benson's latest show is hanging in the Gypsum public library through the end of February.
Randy Wyrick |

GYPSUM — Jacki Allen-Benson gave her art a face, in fact — lots of faces.

Allen-Benson’s work is on display in the Gypsum library through the end of February.

Like many artists, Jacki sees things in more creative ways than most people. For example, she sees faces in nature.

“It’s a real thing,” she said.

Turns out it is. That gift is called pareidolia, and she incorporates those faces into her paintings.

The faces of re-landscaping

She was a landscape designer for years, so when she paints landscapes, she takes a scene and often improves it — depicting it the way she believes it should look, which she calls “re-landscaping” — and adding some faces, of course.

Some faces are obvious, some aren’t. Finding some of them should be a challenge, she said. Art is like that.

There were many children in the Gypsum library for craft time while Allen-Benson was hanging her show. One wandered over to ask Allen-Benson what she was doing. They chatted for a while and the kid spotted a face in a painting.

“There are faces in all the paintings,” she told the lad.

Craft time came to an abrupt halt as happy kids stampeded over to find faces in her paintings.

Allen-Benson is relatively new to the art world. She had the background and could see the faces, and knew what she was supposed to do, but wasn’t sure about the brushes. A bunch of trial-and-error and some tutorial videos set her straight and she started turning out artwork.

Through all that trial-and-error, she learned that she doesn’t particularly care for watercolor or acrylic. She prefers oil, although there is this one technique where she uses acrylics to create shadows in her oil paintings.

She either gives away her paintings (family members are trusted recipients) or sells them.

Life imitates art

You’ll find life in her paintings. Some of it’s dark, but like Jacki, it’s mostly light.

She says she draws inspiration from her faith and Colorado’s landscapes.

She has nine lives and says she considers painting her “ninth” life.

Allen-Benson served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, studied horticulture and landscape design in college, spent several years in faith-based social work and helps husband Hugo Benson run Old Gypsum Printer, their family business.

Allen-Benson grew up as one of six children — five brothers and a sister. Their local library was a quiet respite from the family’s constant commotion, so the Gypsum library was a natural choice, she said.

As she was hanging it, someone from the Vail library was in the room and liked it so much that she was invited to hang a show in Vail for two weeks in May.

Jacki was in France with Hugo and a waitress told her she was spelling her name incorrectly.

So, for the rest of the trip she decided she’d be Jacqui. She liked it and when she finishes a painting she signs it “Jacqui.”

Hugo occasionally wanders over to where she’s working and observes that the painting is still a work in progress, because Jacqui has not signed it.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and