Benjamin Edwards, 49, is a professional artist and the husband of Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, a think-tank in Washington, D.C.
Tanden previously served as a top aide for Hillary Clinton during her first presidential campaign in 2008. She has been back in the spotlight for a seemingly negative relationship with Faiz Shakir, who is now managing Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Senator Sanders recently sent a letter to the Center for American Progress. He accused the organization of attacking him personally and of harming the “mission to defeat Donald Trump.” Tanden rejected that accusation and ThinkProgress editor-in-chief Jodi Enda told the Times, “we don’t have a favored candidate.”
Benjamin Edwards appears to have kept himself out of the political spotlight despite his wife’s position; he rarely shows up in her pictures and does not appear to have any active social profiles himself. But they might not have met had it not been for a shared interest in politics. Edwards and Tanden worked on a campaign together in the late 1980s and got married in 1999. They have two children, Alina and Jaden.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Benjamin Edwards & Neera Tanden Met During Their Freshman Year at College at UCLA; They Both Volunteered to Work on the Presidential Campaign of Michael Dukakis
Benjamin Edwards and Neera Tanden have been married for twenty years, but they have been a couple for a decade longer than that. In a 2012 interview with CSPAN, Tanden explained that she met her future husband when they were both freshman students at UCLA.
They both volunteered to work for the Michael Dukakis campaign, the Democrat who eventually lost the race to President George H.W. Bush. Tanden said she and Edwards were both precinct leaders. Her assigned area was in Bel Air and she said that the majority of the people living there had already given money to Dukakis’ campaign. Therefore, there’s wasn’t a lot Tanden needed to go.
Edwards’ precinct was the UCLA dorms. Tanden explained that she ended up helping Edwards in his precinct.
2. Benjamin Edwards Asked Neera Tanden to Marry Him at age 19, But They Waited Until 1999 to Tie the Knot
Benjamin Edwards proposed to Neera Tanden when they were 19 years old. In the CSPAN interview mentioned above, Tanden was asked whether being single or married had made her career easier or harder. Tanden responded, “Well, I have never been single because I got engaged at 19, throughout this period so I don’t really know.”
But the young couple took their time before walking down the aisle. They got married in the summer of 1999.
They also moved to New York that year. Tanden had been working in the Clinton administration and collaborated with First Lady Hillary Clinton on several issues. When Tanden and Edwards moved to New York, Tanden kept working for Mrs. Clinton, who went on to run for the Senate.
3. Benjamin Edwards is an Acclaimed Artist & His Work Has Been Showcased in Top Galleries Around the World
Benjamin Edwards is a professional artist. According to his website, his pieces have been displayed in galleries across the world. Some of the locales that have featured his work include the Kravets Wehby Gallery in New York City; the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo; the Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard in Paris; the Stadtischen Galerie in Dresden, Germany; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Gallerie Faurschou in Copenhagen, Denmark; and the Kohn Turner Gallery in Los Angeles. Edwards’ work is also featured at the Museum of Modern Art and the New York Public Library, and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
In 2006, Edwards was honored with the RISD/Target Emerging Artist Award. Shortly after, his work was featured in a one-person exhibition put on by the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery.
The gallery shared a photo from the opening night. Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the attendees.
The gallery described Edwards’ exhibition, titled “We,” as such:
“Edwards continues to hold a mirror to contemporary society, reflecting it back as hallucinatory and visionary landscapes. Since his last show, he has transitioned to using oil paints from acrylic, enriching the palette and texture of his work. While he continues to deploy a seemingly inexhaustible dictionary of corporate identities and image branding, the artist has also incorporated numerous images from disparate sources, both high and low, found and invented… Edwards’s new work is composed and layered with transparencies and shifts in figure and ground. The artist has stated his painting is a ‘vast expanse of all that is outside the crushing force of the present moment, antithesis of the mundane, forever relegated to a lost past or an unrealized future, but all in the mind, individual or cultural. It is a graveyard, a museum, an ideology, a memory (sweet or painful) a wish, a fear, a hope.'”
4. Edwards Studied at the San Francisco Art Institute & the Rhode Island School of Design
Benjamin Edwards was born on August 29, 1970, in Iowa City. He moved to Los Angeles for his undergraduate education at UCLA, where he met his future wife, Neera Tanden. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1991.
The next stop for Edwards was the City by the Bay. He was accepted into the Graduate Painting Program at the San Francisco Art Institute. Edwards then earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Edwards shared with Blunderbuss Magazine in 2013 that he continued to educate himself in order to keep evolving as an artist. For example, he taught himself 3-D modeling. “Doing work in 3-D virtual space really changed my mindset. It’s a different way of imaging how to make paintings. You have this gray, default Cartesian gridded space and you can put anything in there…it’s thought up in this kind of vacuum.”
Edwards gave that interview in 2013, around the same time his work was being featured in a solo exhibition at the Kravets Wehby Gallery in Manhattan, called “System.” Blunderbuss Magazine wrote that Edwards had created an utopian world with his pieces. “When examined through the lens of technology especially, Edwards’ utopian landscapes—digital conceptions borne into physical existence—are at once dreamlike yet concretely familiar.”
NY Art Beat described Edwards’ “System” exhibition as “re-contextualizing architectural elements. Color planes fracture images that verge on representation and fall away to abstraction in a way that suggests a digital reality. The artist confronts issues surrounding the use and production of technology by creating landscapes of non-real places. Edward’s paintings reflect on changing perceptions of reality and space on an ever-shifting technological landscape.”
5. Edwards Writes Essays to Explain His Mindset as Specific Art Pieces Came Together
Benjamin Edwards, in addition to being a painter, is a writer. He has included a series of essays on his professional website that focus on topics such as the future of technology, artificial intelligence, global capitalism and the state of democracy. Edwards likes to explain how these topics influence his painting. He explained on his website, “images and language assist each other in a symbiotic quest for meaning in the artist’s mind.”
In 2007, he began working on an oil painting called “The Triumph of Democracy.” Edwards explained his mindset as he started creating it:
“Over the last ten years my paintings have explored the world of global capitalism from the point of view of the average consumer. More recently, I have begun to question the place of the utopian spirit in our culture’s political philosophy, contrasting the dominance of today’s world order with the ghost-ideologies that gave rise to it. My paintings now depict a virtual meta-world, a fictional place that can theoretically encompass any city, real or imagined, physical or virtual. I use this world as a vehicle to not only reflect the true world in which we now find ourselves, but to question where we might be going as a society, particularly with respect to the nexus between technology and the concentration of capital and power, both corporate and political.”