Amy Kim Keeler Interview - The Hopper Prize

Amy Kim Keeler

Amy Kim Keeler on early influences, finding inspiration in seemingly simple materials & the magical sounds of the Mojave.

How did you get into making art?

I’ve always had a creative side to me, I think. But I stuck with a more scientific path as my parents were math majors. I found my way to a 20+ year career in Women’s Health Nursing, which is still active. However, about 5 years ago, my partner and I moved into an Joseph Eichler home in the Bay Area and around this same time, I discovered the artwork of Irving Harper. Many knew Harper from his work for Herman Miller furniture but not so much for his artwork, which he kept private for many years. I was so struck by the use of very humble and simple materials by both Eichler and Harper and the directions they took them in. Coincidentally, this was during a period in my life where my attempt at a small clothing business failed and was coming to its end. As a result, I was left with a large amount of fabric and the question of what to do with it. I decided I needed a table to work on and found an old drafting table on Craigslist for $15 that I’m still working on today. Using the inspiration from Eichler and Harper, I let my mind wander with my own materials. And basically, this was the beginning of my art practice.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been using corrugated cardboard as my primary canvas for a few years now. I feel that I’m so far from exploiting the possibilities of this material and am loving exploring and stretching it to its limits. It’s such a simple material, yet rigid in the one and only, static grid it provides.

If I land on certain colors, patterns or rhythms, I’ll hang out there for awhile

Amy Kim Keeler

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

Working in my home studio back in 2017 or so, I became intruigued by the increase in deliveries from Amazon, UPS, etc. that I noticed in my neighborhood. As we received our own deliveries, I would break the cardboard boxes down for recycling and ponder the impact that online shopping was having or will have on our environment. Thinking about this led to this current body of work as I was exploring how else this material could be used rather than just throwing it away or putting it in a recycling bin. Although I no longer use “used” cardboard in my art, the work has defintiely made me more mindful of the online shopping that I choose to engage in.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I’d say I do a bit of both. Once I realize a distinct way in which corrugated cardboard can be manipulated or worked with, I’ll focus on that for a time. Or say, if I land on certain colors, patterns or rhythms, I’ll hang out there for awhile and make very distinct projects of those. Other times, it’s great to go where the wind takes me while keeping cardboard and thread as the only contstants in the work.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

My studio is about 20 steps away from my house out here in the beautiful Mojave Desert. I’ll carry a cup of coffee out there in the morning with my dog, Gus, in tow and we’ll spend a few hours out there working until it’s time for a break. After a long dog walk and some lunch, we’ll head back out there until the sun starts making its way down for the day. Sometimes it’s music or podcasts keeping us company. But there are so many magical sounds out here that I find myself listening to the quail calls, hooting owls, and all the great sounds of the coyotes.

Who are your favorite artists?

To name a few, Irving Harper, El Anatsui, Sheila Hicks, Gee’s Bend Quilters and Kathleen Ryan, are some of my favorite artists.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Currently, with what COVID restrictions allow, I’ve loved being exposed to new artists by going to shows with timed appointments at galleries in Los Angeles. In the last year, I’ve had a chance to see some stellar shows by artists like Kathleen Ryan, Brie Ruais, Jennifer Rochlin and Isabelle Albuquerque. Instagram is another great place for me to discover new artists or artists who are new to me. The amount of great art that people are sharing there is endless and so exciting.

Amy Kim Keeler is an artist based in Yucca Valley, California who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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