Seth Benzel’s transition from flourishing race horse trainer to successful abstract artist has been a fascinating one thus far.
The 44-year-old graded stakes-winning trainer, who won the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in 2010 with Dynaslew, has since left racing completely and returned to his lifelong passion: creating art.
“It’s been an amazing progression and now I am literally living the life I want to live,” Benzel said. “I’m traveling. I’m making art. I have my own gallery.
“But, more importantly, I am sharing the experience of art and paintings with people.”
And it’s not just personal friends and family or casual art fans that are enjoying Benzel’s work. Connections from the thoroughbred industry are, too, and those relationships continue to help spread his works of art.
“It’s really amazing how it’s all coming together,” Benzel said as he prepared for a recent trip to Spain to study and observe the country’s diverse and longstanding art culture.
Benzel, a former assistant to current and future Hall of Fame thoroughbred racing trainers Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher, respectively, studied art at the Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn before moving into horse racing full time, establishing lifelong relationships and earning more than $4 million with his horses on the racetrack.
“Once you’re in the horse world, it’s always in you,” Benzel said. “You will always miss a certain part of it. There’s nothing better than being a trainer of a horse that you know is doing well and training right and, the next time he races, you know he’s going to run well.”
But it was something more for Benzel.
Following his best year as a trainer in terms of wins and earnings in 2010, Benzel had the epiphany that would change his life.
“All of these feelings kind of really surfaced,” Benzel said. “I did this one painting and I could remember, after that painting, I looked at it and I said, ‘If you don’t paint for the rest of your life as much as possible, you’re just wasting what you have.’”
So, that’s what he did.
Benzel started putting his plan in motion to become the full-time artist he had always thought about becoming, even if it was subconsciously in the background while he focused on the success of his stable.
“That was a turning point to where, in that moment, I said, I’m still young enough to go on a different path,” Benzel recalled “And if I start right away, I can get at it.”
He then began to shift his training focus to Dubai, where he had owners with horses and took the opportunity to train there in the United Arab Emirates for 2012 through 2014, all the while preparing to transition from horse racing to art full time.
In 2015, it happened.
And Benzel has been making art solely ever since.
As an abstract painter — a style he calls deconstructionist — Benzel is aiming to evoke emotion through his work, making use of basic elements of art to make a statement that is not fully explained but also gives enough information so that people can identify the painting themselves.
“The reason I paint abstractly is because there is a limitless amount of options and puzzles that you can solve,” he said. “There is a limitless amount of outcome and reaction to the work. This is what I really enjoy.”
One of his latest works , “Glory Now and Forever,” is currently on display at the lobby of the Pavilion Grand Hotel in downtown Saratoga Springs, and is being auctioned to help raise money for Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue.
Benzel makes it a point to do at least one painting each year to help raise money for a charity cause, something he thoroughly enjoys.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Benzel said.
Akindale is a thoroughbred retirement operation that works on rehabilitating, retraining, and re-homing retired racehorses, as well as educating the public on responsible horse ownership and the issues with equine slaughter.
“Saratoga has given me some opportunities art-wise, so I appreciate that. It’s been a good way to reconnect,” he said. “And Pavilion Grand Hotel has been a great supporter.”
The painting, which is 44 inches by 56 inches in size and was officially unveiled at the hotel earlier in August.
There is also information and more artwork, on Benzel’s website: sethbenzel.com.