I’m actually the first artist that I know of in my family. My parents are teachers, and their parents were farmers. My maternal grandfather was a dairy farmer in SW Pennsylvania. On my father’s side, they raised sheep and had fruit trees. That is actually the land on which I currently live and have built my studio. Although I don’t have livestock, I still maintain the peach and apple orchards.
Since childhood have you always wanted to be an artist or did you plan to be something else?Growing up I enjoyed various subjects, especially science, but was never sure what I wanted to be. I began college as an engineering major and after taking many electives in a variety of fields including art and art history, I found that the intersection of all my interests and my passion lie in studio art. The process I go though in making work in the studio is really not all that much different than working in the lab – somewhat to my surprise art and science are more related than I always thought and art is just a better fit for me. It was a long road for me to find my place in art, but I think that my background in science, engineering, and architecture has enriched my studio practice.
For your sculptural series 'The Woods' what was your inspiration?‘The Woods’ consists of fifty white neon axes which rest against tree stumps and the walls. The neon axes fill the gallery with a cool, white light that flattens space and is bright enough to slightly irritate one’s eyes. One of my main inspirations for the piece was thinking about physically demanding labour like splitting firewood and the periods of rest that one must take to recuperate throughout the activity. As one rests, their mind wonders into daydreams and fantasy so that the task is interspersed with disconnects. The neon axes are much like the memory, or perhaps ghost images of the many places one would set down their tool during breaks – over the course of days and weeks and months an axe would be set down in dozens of different spots and I am interested in the presence this history has in an environment, as well as the regenerative feeling of rest after working hard. It is also my hope that the installation itself can function as a disconnect for viewers from the everyday.
Why do you choose to work with neon lighting tubes?I enjoy the process of bending the glass by hand and processing it into a functional light source – I feel a little like Dr. Frankenstein bringing the tubes to ‘life’ in a way. The process perfectly blends my interests in physics, chemistry, engineering, and art. However, what I really like about neon is that I can use it almost as though I have a solid, frozen piece of light whose shape and colour I can manipulate to my satisfaction in order to change one's physical environment and push one to be more aware of their own physiological systems of perception and notions of the world at large.
Whats your favourite show/project to date?All of my shows are exciting and a bit nerve racking because they all hold unique challenges and problems to overcome, but one in particular that stands out to me was at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. The Soap Factory is a huge 19th century factory building that has been converted for use as a raw artist exhibition space. The building itself has such an overpowering character and history that creating an installation that would both transform and exemplify the particular architectural idiosyncrasies was an incredibly daunting and exhilarating task.
Keith's work I'm sure you will all agree is certainly up there with every artist that exhibits at the super cool London galleries such as White Cube or Rook & Raven, and the great news is that he is planning on venturing across the waters! Watch this space London arties, but for now we'll all have to make do with his work 'digitally' from a far!!
For more of his work: