Artist Spotlight: Richard Keen

Our gallery Director Allyson Boli sat down with Richard Keen to learn more about his creative process. Not only is Richard both a talented painter and sculptor, but he also has three studio dogs! Read our interview below to learn more about him:

Allyson Boli: What was your initial spark to be an artist?  

Richard Keen: I can remember drawing and tracing a lot as a child. Throughout school, I also gravitated to art and music classes and fortunately went to a public high school that had a solid art program with four art faculty who were very supportive.  After high school, when it came time to decide between moving to LA to become a “Rock and Roll Star” versus going to college for art, something inside me must have known I would be a better visual artist – that plus a heavy parental urging to go to college.   

AB: What is your creative process like? Do you begin with an end result envisioned?

RK: My creative process generally starts with turning on music and looking around at what I did last. I often have at least 10-15 pieces happening at once and paints mixed up ready to go so that I can jump right in and get messy. Most of my work starts with putting down some light ground colors with acrylics to block out some simple shapes. Then, I start building up lines, shapes, colors and textures with my oils. Sometimes I have a sense of a basic direction that I want a painting to head in, or I try to capture elements of other paintings that I’ve completed, but I don’t typically have a vision for an end result. 

AB: So it sounds like you’re working on multiple pieces at once, how does that play into your overall process?

RK: Yes, I find that working on similar but different bodies of work at the same time keeps my work moving in interesting directions. I often find that one painting, or group of paintings, informs the other and helps me with color choices, textures and generally keeps me from getting stuck in a rut. 

AB: What inspired your sculptural and shaped paintings? 

RK: My current sculptural and shaped paintings come from within my “Form Singularity” paintings and through finding shapes that resonate with me. I’ve been exploring three-dimensional work as far back as I can remember, but I think that I would have to say that making shaped paintings could be directly attributed to my appreciation for Elizabeth Murray’s work. I can also say that walking through a boatyard in the off season, and seeing how boat hulls get sanded and repainted also stimulated my urge to make shaped work. I think I saw a rudder laying on the ground half sanded by the yard crew… that was a moment of inspiration for me too.

AB: What made you move toward the more minimal style of the Form Singularity series?  

RK: I’ve leaned towards simplifying, reducing, and minimizing the amount of information that I put onto the canvas all along my path as an artist. As far back as high school, I remember working with simplified shapes and amplified colors. My “Form Singularity” Series is, in a sense, my natural state of being, while my other series act as bridges for viewers to cross over into the way I see the world.   

AB: Are there any artists that inform your work?  

RK: Oh yes… I love so many fantastic artists. I mentioned Elizabeth Murray earlier, who I was lucky enough to meet a couple times. I’m a fan of Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and so many of the late greats. A few contemporary artists that I admire greatly are Julie Mehretu, Cadence Giersbach, Chris Ofili, Gary Hume and David Tremlett.  

AB: What are you currently working on? 

RK: I’m currently working on new “Form Singularity” paintings, new “Island Geometry and Sea Geometry” paintings, and several new sculptures while balancing out the demands of a couple upcoming three-person shows here in Maine. I’m also working on a Public Art Project through Maine’s Percent for Art Program. The multi-panel mural is an 8’ x 8’ abstraction made up of 6 geometric panels linked closely to my “Island Geometry” and will be installed in June of 2020.

View Richard Keen’s work in our exhibition Almost Exactly on view through June 16, 2019.

Artist Richard Keen in front of his work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Form Singularity No. 165, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 72 x 64 in., 2019

Can you name #5WomenArtists?

Since 2016—every Women’s History Month—the National Museum of Women in the Arts has challenged those active on social media to answer this question: Can you name five women artists?

This task should be simple. It’s just five artists . . . female artists. Unfortunately, many cannot answer this question, not without resorting to a quick internet search. 

#5WomenArtists is a campaign to support gender equality in the arts. Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is proud to answer #5WomenArtists this Women’s History Month with five modern and contemporary female artists, working across a range of media, on view in Boston this spring.

SAND Performers. Image courtesy of Victoria Awkward.

1. Contemporary Performance/Interdisciplinary
Victoria Awkward (present)
is a Boston-based emerging interdisciplinary performance artist whose work combines dance, music, photography, and empowerment. Victoria collaborates with diverse groups and focuses her practice on considerations of individuality and self-realization. Her recent performance SAND is an evening-length dance installation combining dance, poetry, music, and visual arts that celebrates the inherent differences between women by highlighting each female dancers’ unique qualities and personal expression.

Recently, Victoria hosted SAND at the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery and will host another performance at Fountain Street Gallery on April 26 and 27.

2. Contemporary Drawings/Public Installation
Joan Jonas (1936–present)
is an American performance and video artist who explores and reinterprets representations of time, space, and female subjectivity in her work. Jonas pioneered video art, and became one of the most important female artists to emerge in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Her work frequently questions portrayals of female identity in dramatic and contrived performances that draw on stories from many cultures, using theatrical gestures, masks, mirrors, and costumes. In 2017, she was the Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Gardner Museum. 

Her solo exhibition I Know Why They Left and her public installation Blue to Blue are on view at the Isabella Gardner Museum from January 23–October 14, 2019, and January 22–June 24, 2019, respectively.

Isabella Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115

I Know Why They Left is a new series of drawings by the 2017 Artist-in-Residence Joan Jonas, Image courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

3. Contemporary Sculpture
Kapwani Kiwanga (1978–present)
is a Paris-based artist who investigates historical narratives, the global consequences of colonialism, and the pervasive impact of power asymmetries still present in society today. She examines marginalized and forgotten histories by juxtaposing them with present realities and future possibilities, using sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance. Her recurrent reference to materiality and the economics of material production allude to how exploitation invariably manifests in politics and culture.

Her solo exhibition is on view at the MIT List Visual Arts Center from February 8–April 21, 2019.

MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames St, Cambridge, MA 02142

4. Modern Painting/Print/Sculpture
Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) 
was a German artist, who worked with painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Kollwitz was a resolute pacifist whose son died during World War I. She is best known for her compelling anti-war graphic works—which emphasize the suffering and sacrifice of those on the home front and especially the female perspective of the war—and her art cycles which depict the effects of poverty, hunger, and war on the working class. Several of her works are currently on view at the Harvard Art Museum (with many more in storage).

Harvard Art Museum
32 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138

5. Contemporary Photography
Cindy Sherman (1954–present)
is an American photographer and filmmaker who critiques contemporary stereotypes of gender and identity. Using herself as the subject of most of her work, Sherman examines and distorts the social constructs of femininity and the mechanics of their production. “I like making images that from a distance seem kind of seductive, colorful, luscious, and engaging, and then you realize what you're looking at is something totally opposite,” she explains.

Several of her works are currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

 Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA 02210

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #3, gelatin silver print, 1977, Image courtesy of the ICA Boston.

Honorable Mention: Contemporary Fashion Exhibition
Made Visible: Contemporary South African Fashion and Identity
is a female-forward fashion exhibition celebrating the identities of South Africans historically denied rights and representation, such as Xhosa, Ndebele, and Zulu communities; women of color; members of the LGBTQI community; and rural citizens. The exhibition explores how clothing communicates individuality, creates or erases cultural identity, and enforces class divisions.

This exhibition is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from February 2–May 12, 2019.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Written by Devon Engle

Small Business Spotlight: DoubWorks

Custom stretcher bars built in Joshua Doub's workshop. Photo courtesy of  DoubWorks Instagram

Custom stretcher bars built in Joshua Doub's workshop. Photo courtesy of DoubWorks Instagram

At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, we like to consider the quality of the work our artists are producing in a holistic manner. Our artists place heavy importance of each detail that goes into creating their work, from the caliber of the paint to the stretcher bars that support the canvas. Stretchers are the foundation of a painting: their quality dictates its longevity and durability. For this reason, we were thrilled when we learned about DoubWorks a few years back.

DoubWorks is a small business founded in 2013 in Royalston, Massachusetts, dedicated to creating handcrafted artist materials. They build each product from scratch, creating high-quality stretchers. Primarily, they build custom stretcher bars - including uniquely shaped surfaces, such as circles or ellipses. Their stretcher bars are made of poplar, which is stronger than pine but weighs about the same. Poplar also grows on the east coast not too far from the shop, making it an environmentally friendly choice. All of the stretchers are milled completely in-house to assure straightness. Because of DoubWorks’ exceptional process of handcrafting products from the rough lumber to the finished item, their artist materials have become highly sought after by artists across the country. One of our own artists, Natalia Wróbel, uses DoubWorks for her canvases to ensure that her abstract oil paintings have the support and durability they deserve.

Natalia Wróbel using DoubWorks for her canvases

Founder Joshua Doub was first inspired to start DoubWorks when he desired higher quality canvases for his own work. Out of this need, the business grew organically as Josh began making and selling his custom canvases to other artists. Josh designed and built his entire workshop from the ground up, even harvesting the lumber from trees cut on the property. Josh worked with a master timber framer to construct the workshop's wooden frame and with the help of friends and family. His business is 100% powered by solar energy!

As you can tell, creating quality stretcher bars is its own art form!

Visit their website for more information: https://www.doubworks.com/

Photo courtesy of Doubworks Instragram

Artist Spotlight: Caron Tabb

Hollow Through My Core  (2015) Acrylic and charcoal on canvas 48 × 30 in

Hollow Through My Core (2015)
Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
48 × 30 in

Caron Tabb’s paintings are born from a continuous stream of energy, flowing from her emotional core, through her body, and onto the canvas. Each piece is a series of choices—technique, material, color, line—which come together in an emotive composition that elicits a unique visceral response from each viewer

Tabb sees the canvas is a fluctuating, enduring surface. She compares it to the hair she lost in overcoming cancer as a teenager: something that can be regrown, reimagined, and reclaimed again and again as she paints. Her canvas has the ability to take in everything she throws at it, and transform her raw feelings into something productive and beautiful.

Having studied fashion design, Tabb brings an openness to alternative materials into her work. She explores a number of techniques, many of which incorporate natural, eco-friendly materials. She has been recently experimenting with rust dyeing, a technique in which the oxidization of rust transfers over to paper or fabric using tannins. Tea, wine, vinegar, even ocean water, can all be used to transfer rust in unexpected ways, imparting the soft, earthy colors of patina.

“I have a great appreciation for what elements do to materials,” Tabb explained. “The wind, the water, the rain, rust—you almost capture a moment in time. You never know what you’re going to find.”

Window of Tolerance  Pastel, acrylic and charcoal on paper

Window of Tolerance
Pastel, acrylic and charcoal on paper

Tabb’s paintings all, in a way, carry that theme of capture. She works with her canvas on the floor, moving around it with her entire body to make bold marks. She captures movement, time, and above all, the mental and emotional state of the artist at that specific time—something that she will never experience in quite the same way again. That is the part of the magnetism of her work: it draws something out of its audience that is familiar, and yet impossible to experience again in any other context.

Many of her pieces have specific context for herself as well. “Window of Tolerance”, for instance, is everything about a loved one who was suffering from severe depression several years ago, and the process they went through together in coping with it. It refers to the psychological term “window of tolerance”, which teaches people who suffer from deep-seated negative thinking to expand their capacity to tolerate such feelings. Instead of being consumed, they work through these thoughts—expand their window of tolerance for them.

To Tabb, this open conversation about mental and emotional health is important in her work. She allows her paintings to display these concerns in plain sight to be understood and accepted. As these concerns evolve, and her relationship with them shifts, her paintings change along with it.

“He’s doing great by the way,” Tabb breaks a smile after this difficult conversation. “Which, by the way, is the reason why there’s so much more color in my work now.”

Caron Tabb's studio in Newton, MA

Caron Tabb's studio in Newton, MA

Caron Tabb’s work is above all, about being fearless. Fearless about her techniques and her materials, fearless about where her process will take her and what she will discover along the way, and fearless about how much of herself is laid out within it. This assertive approach is what allows her to create identifiable work that the viewer can respond to.

“There’s no downside to being bold. I just go, and there’s something very liberating about that. I feel like I’m just getting going, like I’ve just begun to peel away from the surface.”

Be sure to experience Caron Tabb’s recent work in Abigail Ogilvy Gallery’s summer group show, The Tides, opening Thursday, July 14, 2016.

 

Wednesday, June 22: Puloma Ghosh