Artist Spotlight: Wewer Keohane
Wewer Keohane has been an artist living in the Roaring Fork Valley for more than three decades, and in that time, she’s supported and shown her work with a variety of arts organizations, from the Aspen Art Museum to the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts.
Keohane creates in a variety of styles and mediums, but her mixed media paintings and use of paper may be what she’s known for best. She finds inspiration in the divine and in her dreams, and she uses materials that mean something to her to execute her ideas.
Post Independent: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with the valley.
Wewer Keohane: I decided to move here in late 1981. I had first visited the valley three years earlier and fell in love with it. I was offered the position of executive vice president of Sport Obermeyer, and I accepted so I could live here, and I have lived here ever since, although not in the same place. Since I married my husband, Steve, (also an artist) we’ve lived in our present sanctuary for 24 years.
PI: When did you first become interested in art?
WK: I have always been interested in art. I started drawing at 3, and my parents sent me to a school for precocious creative kids in London at 4. I’ve been making art ever since. The first specific thing I remember drawing was my parents’ unusual coffee table. They didn’t believe I had drawn it until I drew it again in front of them.
PI: Tell me about some of the formal and informal training you’ve had.
WK: My most beloved training was from Anderson Ranch. I went every summer for over 20 years, and it was my Mecca. I also have a Ph.D. in creative arts and a B.F.A. My master’s was in business. It has been a good mix of education for an artist. I had no art mentors, but one of my early majors was art history, which I have taught and love, and so I have the whole world of art as my mentorship. I guess you could say that my dreams have been my mentors as well, for they have given me imagery and direction in all aspects of my life.
PI: When and how did you decide you wanted to become a professional artist?
WK: I studied fine art and art history as an undergraduate because I have been an artist my whole life. I was raised in Europe, and art was everywhere. Art decided that I would be an artist, not me! I can never remember not wanting to make art. At first I was a graphic artist and worked in the advertising world for many years. I loved the creativity, but after a decade, I wanted to make art that spoke for me, and from my concepts, not as a client/product job, so to speak.
PI: What mediums do you work in?
WK: I have worked in all mediums. I have three areas of art that are prominent in my bodies of work: creative, conceptual and contemplative, and mixtures of these. Whatever the body of work calls for, I feel competent in the media. I love working with paper — especially old paper with patina — but I rarely work with just paper. I love paint and pastels and watercolor and found objects. I don’t plan to use just one medium when I start; I just let the subconscious guide me in the direction of what works within the idea. In the beginning of my professional career as a fine artist, I was doing abstract pastels. I just got bored with the one medium and started learning printmaking, which led to falling in love with paper and process. Eventually I found the tea bag and began using them because of their patina and texture. On it goes…
PI: What are some of the things that inspire the content of your work?
WK: One of the main focuses in my work is the feminine and the balance between the feminine and the masculine. I use a lot of silver and gold leaf to represent those aspects. I also love making work that has a feminine hand, and I am greatly inspired by my dreams. I have written several books on making art from dreams, i.e. Artful Dreaming, to share my processes with others. I feel that working from my own material makes my art authentic. I am not interested in representational work unless it has deep meaning for me. I find I cannot get excited about art that doesn’t carry a meaning for me. I am also a devout yogi, so there is usually an expression of the divine in my work that is apparent to me but maybe not to viewers.
PI: Tell me about your involvement in the local art scene.
WK: I am a member/supporter of all the valley organizations from the Aspen Art Museum to CCAH and the Glenwood Springs Art Center, to Anderson Ranch and the Carbondale Clay Center. I just donated work to the Wyly for their upcoming fundraiser. I have been a mentor and teacher at all the organizations as well as CMC, and in my studio. I was represented in Aspen from 1984 to 2009 by Magidson Fine Art and other galleries. My studio is open to the public, and we have a small gallery here as well. I am represented in New York City by AFTIFACT, as well as galleries in San Francisco and Dallas. I chose not to be in a valley gallery after 2009, other than the new Launchpad art shop, so that I could sell directly from my studio and accept invitations to many local exhibitions. I was the co-founder of Wild Women, which had a 12-year run at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, a charter member of the SWAN exhibitions, and I have exhibited with CCAH since 1984 and had a solo exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum in 2010.
PI: In general, what do you love about being an artist?
WK: Being an artist is hard work, and I have always loved a challenge. I love being creative and having a creative life and having artists as friends because artists are usually interesting, creative and unique beings. I love life, and having an artful, art-filled life is really important to me. The most fun thing for me is being in the creative process on a continual basis. I try to bring my creativity into every facet of my life, not just in my art-making. I believe that people are much happier if they have a creative outlet and that everyone should make something.
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