Artist Richard Keen: Abstraction in Real Life

Art Decision catches up with Richard Keen, artist from the coast of Maine, USA

What is a typical day for you?
Groggy mornings drinking coffee, goofiness (and crankiness) with dogs and the family, then work…depending on the season, work involves maneuvering my day-job before studio work, but the day-job fuels my studio work. In the winter my seasonal day-job as a diver ends, so it is straight to the studio after coffee.  I rarely miss a day in the studio to at least reflect on what I did the day before and keep connected.


What inspires your work?
When I’m not in the studio, I am either outside working in, or exploring, nature. My experiences on and under the ocean, working around boatyards, and hiking around islands with my pack.


Why do you focus on abstract art?  I have always been a colorist and drawn to simplified shapes in space. It’s in my nature to filter which elements of my experiences are brought into focus by removing unnecessary detail, often simplifying the world into line, shape, color, and texture. Sometimes, depending on which series I’m working on, I allow more of my influences to be more recognizable. The shapes in my paintings are based on keels, rudders and other structural components of boats; often accompanied by references to horizon lines and water. My muses in this body of work are meant to metaphorically “steer,” “guide,” or “navigate” viewers on a path leading away from the literal and often expected versions of “seascape” paintings and traditional ideas of “nautical painting,” and toward the creation of their own interpretation.


How is life in Maine for an artist?  Is there any support for artists from the local or federal government?
Life in Maine as an artist, or anywhere, isn’t easy financially; unless you have a source of private funding, it’s a never-ending job seeking representation, sales and marketing on top of producing art. Maine does have a healthy arts community and multiple ways to show your work, connect with other artists and still find reasonable studio spaces.  I’ve been in Maine for 19 years and have made many connections to other artists, curators, and supporters of the arts. I’m also fortunate to have a fantastic gallerist here (Elizabeth Moss Galleries) with whom I’ve been showing for the past 9 years. Honestly, without her support, and other gallerists over the years (Judith Leighton and Harry Simon) who have shown and sold my work, it would be extremely difficult to maintain a studio outside my home. The State of Maine does have an arts commission that many artists have benefited from, myself included. However, like federal arts programs, it is usually under attack and in constant jeopardy of being defunded.


What are the projects you are involved in now, and what are your upcoming shows?  Currently, I’m working on new paintings and sculptures for the following two venues in 2019. I’m working with George Kinghorn, Director and Curator, at the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor, Maine where my first solo museum show will be held from January 11 –May 4th 2019. I am also firming up plans for a solo exhibition with Elizabeth Moss Galleries, in Falmouth, Maine, later in 2019. Along with production of work, I am constantly reaching out to venues outside the State of Maine for exhibition possibilities, and applying for grants and residencies.