My professional career began with my relocation to Oakland, California and my subsequent acceptance of an education position coordinating the recreational activities of Alzheimer’s patients. Teaching art therapy to over 40 participants with dementia and Alzheimer’s was where I was able to see the impact and healing capabilities that art had on participants. It allowed space for exploration and letting go of the cultural norms that they no longer lived within. This was a space that allowed for freedom and color, a healing space where every mark they made was right and my participants could do no wrong. Many relearned basic skills, some learned how to write again, this was a setting for unbelievable transformations. My family has a genetic link to Alzheimer’s and as I learned more about the disease, I realized new ways to speak the language of art, new ways in which to challenge myself and communicate with others.
I grew up in a large family alongside my twin brother in Seattle, Washington and studied painting at Washington State University. At 18, upon the passing of my mother, I became acutely aware not only of my own creativity but of her inspiration. She taught me, supported me and my Keen name honors her creative passion and my commitment to achieve many of the goals that she not only aspired to herself but passed along as inspiration to me.
The last 5 years of my work has been developed while traveling by bicycle, sail boat and bus throughout the United States and Latin America. I have found my bilingual language abilities to be of immense value in being able to listen, communicate and accurately translate native influences within the context of my work. I have sourced inspiration by way of travel and interaction with indigenous populations through the creation of a mural series spanning Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. My work in, “Siete de Las Estrellas” shows the iconic 7 pointed star of Cabanaconde, Peru where the relationship shifts between perspectives. Viewed from afar the work appears to be an iconic star with a ribbon flowing throughout the mural, however, shifting to a closer point of view, an entirely different world full of historical images, plant life of the Cabanaconde region and traditional, native styles of female dress are revealed.
Perspective shifts such as this one can also be seen in the mural, “To the Moon and Back” where one will find the overwhelming glow of the moon depicted when viewing at a distance, yet a detailed inspection will find this glow to be filled with intricate verse and songs written by local musicians and poets. The writing is scattered and subtle but rich with messages central to the Oakland Community yet unique to each musician’s story. I want the audience to engage with my art differently, seeing not only a beautifully wrought large scale vision but also noticing the intricacies and poetry that play from within a more intimate field of view.
My collaboration with the local community and commitment to creative transparency throughout the entire mural making process is a cornerstone of my approach to public art. I like to convey through my work not only my personal sense of involvement and excitement with the communities that I represent but also the own unique creative aura that the people and places evoke. This involvement is not merely a constituent of my own vision but is also expressed by local involvement in the interactive painting lessons and workshops that I facilitate. In conjunction with the Bayview Opera house, I organized and directed the community production of a collaborative mural. This event featured not only the painting of the work but also included live music, food, and activities which in the end produced not only an enduring local feature but a community event in the process of its creation. Similarly, as a key member of the creatively eclectic “Biketopia Music Collective” I have traveled in excess of two thousand miles, by bicycle, assisting in the transportation, by bicycle alone, of 1,000 pounds of pedal powered generators, lighting and musical equipment making possible the creation of some 35 highly unique art and music festivals that took place in Canada and California. In association with this effort, I led a community outreach effort that focused on
local engagement through a series of “live painting” exhibits that became one of the main attractions at this popular series of events.
My goal within the context of public art is to combine the technical skill of an artist, training of an Art Therapist and the experience of life and work in a diverse assortment of local communities around the globe, producing work that is visionary not only in it’s scale but through the collaborative intimacy of it’s creative voice. I seek to use the creative gifts passed from my late mother to myself, now honed into professional tools, to produce activated community spaces that speak with a voice not merely my own, but one drawn equally from the traditions, history and the very individuals that will call the places I visit and work within home.