StreetscapeBrian Keeler Studios - fine art, illustrations, portraitures

Brian Keeler Reviews

Diamond City/Electric City- Scranton, Wilkes- Barre,PA
Published: July 15, 2010

Artist extraordinaire
By Julie Imel

He paints. He dances. He plays guitar. And he volunteers in his community. With such a full plate and broad range of interests, one might wonder when artist Brian Keeler had time to create the 33 oil paintings currently on
display in A Vision of Rhythm - Recent Landscapes and Townhouses at the Pauly Friedman Gallery at Misericordia University. But as he could tell you, the paintbrush is as portable as one's imagination. Meet Wyalusing's Brian Keeler...

How do you describe your style?

I paint outside a lot, which is plein air style or alla prima (Italian for "at the first"). Painters use it to refer to still lives done in one sitting. You try to seize that impression as you are sitting outside and then finish painting in the studio. Four to five pieces in this show were done that way. The rest were painted in the studio. My style is a type of painterly realism, which means that it shows the process of brushwork and drawing as part of the finished look. There are diverse subjects and themes used, and over the years a variety of treatments and approaches. There is a lot of color in my work and I've always had a lot of interest in color. Others say they can recognize my paintings anywhere, but I don't set out to be a stylist - not like Pablo Picasso or Alberto Giacometti. But my style seems to be something people know when they see, even though it's not something I purposely set out to do.

What other artists have influenced your work?

One of my earliest influences is "The Elements of Color" by Johannes Itten. He said, "The end and aim of all artistic endeavor is liberation of the spiritual essence of form and color and its release from imprisonment in the world of objects." I read that and I thought "Wow! What a great mandate for artists: to give them the harmonious joy of releasing color from imprisonment." I highlighted that (passage) in my book. I also enjoy the work of Caravaggio. It gave me a reason to go to Italy. And I enjoy Raphael Sanzio. I've been to his home a couple of times in Urbino, Italy. I like the basic approach of the Ashcan School. They started to look at Americana in the ghettos and slums and subways as subject matter, and that thought has been with me throughout my career; to paint everyday life - and to look at beauty in everyday life.

I've always liked the Impressionists, too. One painter I call a "proto-impressionist" is Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. He was one of the first painters to paint outside, and he specialized in Roman ruins, Roman aqueducts and colosseums. I bought a book with a map and painted the same places he did, and I wondered what ambient sounds were there in 1825 when he was painting by the Tiber River. In Venice, I was painting at a canal, and when I returned home I found out that was the same place John Singer Sargent had painted; he's one of my favorite painters. Early in his career he did portraits. His work was very fluid and beautiful and usually large - four or five feet. He's a painter's painter; he paints with spontaneity and bravura. The Spanish painter Diego Valazquez is one of my favorite painters, too. I've been to the Prado to see his work in Madrid. I admire him greatly - the spontaneity, the freshness combined with the mathematical order - is beautiful. Georges Innes is another (artist worthy of mention). His soft and brushy work is beautiful in his landscapes and I think there is an affinity between our work. This recent body of work at Pauly Friedman is brushy, and is akin to the poetics of his large oils. The fact that he painted in Italy also is of interest. He did a beautiful view of the Tiber that is now in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery that I love.

How do you choose your subject matter?

I purposely seek out scenes that are timeless. In Wyalusing, that's not hard to do because it hasn't changed much in years. Sugar Run also looks the same as it did 150 years ago. I like this timeless quality. Another way I choose my subject matter is to purposely juxtapose modern intrusions, or the banal of modernity, with the quiet dignity of 19th century buildings. There are several paintings where I do this, where I show a gas station next to a beautiful church. It shows the disconnect between the architecture and the art and culture. ... I guess in a way there's a vitality to it, a pandemonium between the old and the new.

What are some of your other interests?

I love to dance. I teach dance in town and I go to all dance events in the area. Teaching dance is a great way to be involved in the community in a different way. I really like explaining it. I enjoy swing, the lindy hop, the balboa, zydeco, salsa and others. There is a bit of a correlation between dancing and painting. I'm also really excited right now about playing in a fledgling jazz group. I've played the guitar my whole life (in spurts) and now I get together with two musicians from Ithaca once a week and we play in quaint pizza places. We're called Sunnyside, but that could morph into something else. I'm just so thankful and happy that they included me.

What are some projects you've been involved in locally?

I've been involved with the Greater Wyalusing Chamber of Commerce for many years as a board member, and on the board of the Wyalusing Community Corporation, a group that formed in 2003 to save the old McCarty Garage
(which is now the Greater Wyalusing Chamber of Commerce) and on the board of the North Branch Arts Trail for 16 years.

What's next for you?

I'll have a show at Laura Craig Gallery in Scranton in September of Italian works with my teacher, Tom Wise. I'm also working on a book, Color and Context: the Exploration of Form and Color, the Painter's Art. Stephen Dougherty wrote the forward, and he really went out of his way to say nice things about my work. A publisher is looking at it now, and I'm hoping it's released in the Spring of 2011.

- julie imel

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