I Heart Art: Steve Keene

These are the only original paintings we have in our house (except for some Chinese and Korean watercolors):

They’re by Brooklyn-based artist Steve Keene who is closely tied to the music scene there. (He did the cover art for an Apples in Stereo CD, for instance). I think N. first found out about Keene’s work from a music related discussion board he frequents and then he told me about him. I ended up getting N. these Beatles paintings for a birthday gift.

The main thing about Keene is that he thinks art should be accessible to everyone. I found an online interview with him, in which he says:
Painting should be part of people’s lives and not separate from the world
like a precious object. I feel like a baker making cakes, making a good quality
object that’s affordable to everyone from college professors to high school
kids. I want buying my paintings to be like buying a CD: it’s art, it’s cheap
and it changes your life, but the object has no status. Musicians create
something for the moment, something with no boundaries and that kind of
expansiveness is what I want to come across in my work.

I think Steve Keene’s artistic viewpoint is interesting and I like the loose style he paints in. Mass production has made things cheaper and more readily available, including art. For example, think about the way in which Thomas Kinkade‘s empire churns out merchandise and various prints. Kinkade touts himself as the most collected artist in America. Supposedly, 1 in 10 homes in America has one of his prints hanging on its wall. Kinkade mass produces printed canvases and then has his “skilled artisans” add painted touches to the prints to create the illusion of them being original works of art. He also has ‘galleries’ all over the place in which these prints are presented as fine works of art and sold for crazy prices.

So both Keene and Kinkade are very prolific, but while Kinkade has built his empire on giving his customers the illusion that the mass-produced replicas of original art they’re buying (at $800-$1200 a pop) are precious original pieces of art, Steve Keene does the very opposite. He paints thousands of paintings by hand and then sells them for $10 (small size) or $14 (large size). Granted, you’re not going to get rich collecting Steve Keene, but I think what he does is pretty great.

If you’re interested in Steve Keene’s paintings, you can buy them directly from his web site or on ebay (his user name is skskgreenpoint). If you go through his web site, you get whatever he’s currently working on, sight unseen. If you buy through ebay, you can pick out want you want.

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