Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Artist of the Week

Katy Keefe

The word opportunity is about as complex a word as you will find. With our nation's attention thrust in the direction of a man from Chicago, I think about opportunity. Is it something that we wait for? Is it something that leaders or politicians can provide for us? No, it is that window that we open for ourselves. It is that doorway that we build before we can walk through it. It is what we make that allows us to make something of it all.

Chicago artist Katy Keefe is not only creating intense and original pieces of art, but she is also creating many opportunities for herself. Since receiving her BFA from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, Katy has consistently shown her work in the many galleries around the city including two solo shows. Through experimentation in her work she continues to grow and learn and develop as an artist. She has a great deal planned for 2009, and it all got under way last week at Caro d'Offay Gallery and her two person show with Scott Cowan called "Sandusky".

Recently, Katy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): What can you tell us about your current show, SANDUSKY, at Caro d'Offay Gallery?
Katy Keefe (KK): Presented by a forgetfulness of Self within the mixed up feelings of freedom, hope, fear, and consciousness, Sandusky brings the distance of the historic past and the unimaginable future to one single point: the present. Artists Scott Cowan and Katy Keefe invite you to a multi-media installation that questions where the dark undercurrent of the political climate stem. In addition, Kelan Phil Cohran, the legendary Chicago space jazz musician infamous for his participation with Sun Ra's Arkestra, will play the Harp from 6-7 P.M.

Upon entering guests are faced with a monumental wall of Moai heads similar to those found on Easter Island dripping with paints of blinding whites and astro-black. The attention is then drawn to the colliding sounds of the intonnations of political speeches, droning frequencies, and the victory of guitar solos. The walls portray a landscape of imagined locations and galaxies, lined with the glitter of gold and silver trees. A rabbit skin tarp hangs above leading to a table of snacks that are free of charge.

As William Black stated, "If the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear as it is - infinite". As always, though obviously pressing in the current days of suspicion and anxiety, there is a greatness found in the strength of being powerless; in the dismissal of knowledge there lies the roots of wisdom. There is hope found in that which have the appearance of the absurd and also in a love that is grown with a distaste for self. Sandusky offers a thought on the expectancy of such a mentality - the visitor decides on how it should be carried out.

OA: Is your approach to a two person show different than a solo show? Did you consider the look of Scott's work or his approach in anyway?
KK: Yes, I approach a two person show much differently than a solo show, although this dichotomy is a key element to my artistic process. Where my solo shows are very intense introspective undertakings, these collaborative events offer the complete opposite. Here is where I can relax, experiment with new mediums and processes, but most importantly learn from my show collaborator. My decision to work with Scott was a result of a car ride in Kansas City, but mostly because of his approach to artmaking and the pieces he creates. We approach our work differently, that is true, and probably what allows us to work well together. Mainly though, he and I are on the same page subconsciously, and because we don't have to talk about it, collaborating is completely natural.

OA: Your pinhole photographs are amazing. Your description of the images says that they were "created spontaneously and without control". Can you talk about that process and how you came to work with a pinhole camera?
KK: I have been using a pinhole camera off and on for a few years now just as an alternative to painting, but really got into it this summer when I left the city and moved to Wisconsin; the landscape I was in really inspired these photographs more than anything. And the natural results completely, and for the first time, inspired my watercolors! When I reference creating these photographs spontaneously I am speaking of the camera itself. I literally have no choice but to fall victim to the device; I cannot control the shot since there is no viewfinder, the photographs overlap because the winding mechanism is screwed up, and I don't calculate the exposure time. So I guess its not totally the camera's fault, it is also my lack of knowledge with photographic equipment.

OA: You seem to enjoy changing your media and tools frequently. You have worked with watercolor, graphite and ink, oil paint, mixed media, linen, canvas, paper, and so on. Are you searching for the right platform or is this a certain set of tools for a certain mood? Do you have a preference or feel you work best with a certain combination?
KK: My constant experimentation with medium is both of what you say; I am always searching for a perfect combination of materials, but never want to stop with just one, and my moods and/or subject matter are better dictated through particular tools. For example, the watercolors I did this summer were very light and airy, resulting from work created in a state of complete elation and discovery. Right now the weight of building these bulky plaster heads against a dense forest of pine trees and painting large golden prisms reacts to the onslaught of winter. So yes, everything changes according to what is supposed to be made at that particular moment.

OA: You seem to have had success, but do you feel that there is enough opportunity in the city for a young artist?
KK: There is always too much opportunity in any city, you just need to make it for yourself. In other words, it won't come to you.

OA: What's next for Katy Keefe?
KK: Alot is next actually. I have a painting/watercolor show at the Green Gallery in Milwaukee, WI in March. In April my collaborative/social activist art group will be hosting a Read-A-Thon at Co-Prosperity Sphere where participants will be sponsored to read for X amount of hours in an effort to raise money for Proximity Magazine in the midst of site-specific rooms created by various installation groups. Hopefully in the summer Scott and I will be creating another interactive installation at Golden Age where we will be building chandeliers and throwing a debutante ball. In September I will be showing those pinhole photographs at FlatFile Galleries in the Fotowerk 2009 exhibition. And then, hopefully I'll get into grad school. And probably some other stuff will come up...

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
KK: I think if I could sit down and have coffee, specifically, I would talk with the person who discovered that you could actually brew and drink coffee and see how that came about. But I would want to have it with him/her in their time, not mine.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
KK: Music changes alot, not really though. I mean I like Bob Dylan alot, Sun Ra, Sam Cooke, Black Sabbath, Donovan, Beyonce's new album sadly enough. You name it.

For more information on Katy Keefe please visit her website.


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