Visual artist Richard Keen is used to having many irons in the fire. Based near Portland, Maine, he has featured work all over the country and is currently finishing a collection of paintings and sculptures for upcoming shows.
“I don’t want to just be pigeonholed as a painter,” Keen said.
Keen’s penchant for multitasking goes back to his undergraduate studies at Millikin University, where he received an art scholarship and double-majored in studio art and art therapy. The small class sizes at Millikin were an ideal environment for him. He interacted closely with his professors, who allowed him to complete independent studies in 3D art and clay in addition to the full studio and art therapy curriculum. Professor Lyle Salmi, the current Chair of the Art Department at Millikin, acted as Keen’s mentor, and the two still keep in touch.
“We quickly became close and I saw his work develop in a direction that had potential. He really seemed to become more interested in the life and potential career as a visual artist after we went on a trip to New York City in 1996,” Salmi said. “He was enthralled by seeing some of the modern artwork firsthand in Museums such as The Museum of Modern Art and The Guggenheim. I believe this experience was one of the more influential for him during his formative years as an artist.”
Keen graduated from Millikin in 1995. He then earned a Master of Arts from SUNY Albany and has been living in Maine since 1999. He draws inspiration from Maine’s natural and man-made surroundings, including waterfronts, island shapes and horizons, and he incorporates these into his work through distorted shapes and skewed perspectives. Completing several pieces at a time allows him to establish continuity in his works.
He credits the ability to easily develop several pieces at once to his studio space. Its large size allows him to keep several paintings, sculptures and prints out and visible.
“With a lot of work where I can see it, I can jump between anything that is in progress and make new composition choices,” Keen said. “This process of working allows me to always have something in the studio to pick up and work on without getting stuck, and I find that it allows me to start new work and more easily finish ongoing work without worrying about what I’ll start next.”
Currently, Keen is finishing work for a November solo show with the Elizabeth Moss Gallery in Falmouth, Maine. He is also working on paintings for a group show next spring in New York. Visit richardkeenstudio.com to learn more about his work.
Millikin University’s Art Department offers excellent opportunities for students to grow and develop their artistic talents. The department’s programs and faculty help prepare students for fulfilling careers as professional artists, art therapists and related careers in museums, businesses, galleries and more. For more information, visit millikin.edu/cfa.