Artist Interview with Jill Keller
New York Art (NYA): What kind of source material do you use in order to select the pop icons featured in your paintings? Movie posters, magazine images, album covers, other sources?
Jill Keller (JK): In general, I get ideas from everywhere. I may see a movie and decide to paint someone based on that, or read something online and it will spark something. I also do a lot of my work based on dreams I have. I know it sounds strange, but so many of my pieces have come to me in dreams.
NYA: How do you understand your work in relation to the history of Pop Art as well as the street/graffiti culture of New York in the 1970s and 1980s?
JK: For me, the history of Pop Art as well as the street culture of NY, are things that have shown me that art really can be anything and done by anyone. It has shown me that you don't need an expensive education to create magic, you can be anyone from anywhere. You can be inspired by things as simple as a banana or a toaster. It has given me confidence to take the steps into the art world. Anything can be your canvas. Having said that, those movements have also taught me to create what moves me and not compare my work to anyone else's. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
NYA: Can you describe your artistic process?
JK: The majority of my process starts out as controlled chaos. I go through all different versions of what I want to create in my head before I put anything to canvas. Once I put together a plan, I sketch it out on my canvas. I use watercolor pencils so I can erase mistakes with water. Then I paint...I try to do one painting a day.
NYA: What individuals or events have had the greatest impact on your artistic development to date?
JK: The obvious answer to this is Warhol, Lichtenstein, Burton Morris. I feel like I have taken aspects of their work and added my own personality and style to my work. Of course, as far as events, I am always reaching higher and higher. Once I got a taste of having my work in a gallery (Gallery 104) I was hooked. It was like a high. I'd like to think I am constantly evolving and honing my skills so I can experience more of that feeling.
NYA: How would you describe the dominant themes present in your work, or put differently, what are the driving motivations behind the images you produce?
JK: My motivations change. It really depends on so many things for me. How am I feeling about something, someone, some topic. Did I read something about an icon that made me happy, or sad? Do I think this or that is fair? Am I in a good mood? I try to create my feelings in a colorful and upbeat way, and a lot of my work is not easily discernible as projected feelings...but I can tell you exactly what was going through me for each piece I've done.
NYA: As someone that grew up on Long Island, have the environs of your new home in Florida shifted anything about your approach to art-making?
JK: Growing up in NY has a totally different vibe than anywhere else in the world. It's intense, and dark at times, yet also peaceful and beautiful. It's so many different kinds of people and different ways of life that all come together and it just works. It's an attitude that you can't learn. In Florida, it's more laid back, friendly, but it's a surface lifestyle in a way. Most people who live here are transplants so there isn’t the same feeling of being a part of something together like there is in NY. In Florida, for a long time, I was drawn to light and airy artwork, that's what sold. I may have had a feeling about what I was creating, but I would produce something that was just fun to look at. I've found a balance now. Sometimes I still paint Mickey Mouse, but I'm not afraid to show my NY edge anymore.
NYA: Have you always focused on pop culture imagery? What are some past series you have explored?
JK: I have always focused on pop art. I have explored different versions of pop art, such as splatter work, or dripping work, but my overall theme is always something based on pop culture.
NYA: Can you tell me a bit more about your work Social Chaos? Is there a socio-political critique embedded in the dense layering of pop icons and references to luxury brands?
Jill Keller, Social Chaos, mixed media, 24 x 36 inches.
JK: Social Chaos was me venting to my canvas. I was noticing ads in a magazine I was reading that were really over the top. They were ads for luxury items in-between articles about being "real" and "yourself.” I found that to be such a spot-on representation of society. Everyone wants you to serve realness, but they won't take a serving if you don’t have a Louis Vuitton this, or a Chanel that. So many people long for luxury or money or opulence in their own way, and it all boils down to wanting to feel accepted by society. Being yourself doesn’t mean as much as it once did, it doesn’t open doors as easily as Dior or Armani and that's a joke to me...which is why I included Felix the Cat, a representation of a simpler time, when if you were funny people laughed, or if you were artistic, people wanted your art... you didn’t need to "have" things to be someone.
NYA: What are you currently working on (or planning to embark on) that you’re most excited about?
JK: Currently, I have started to explore cubism and pop art. I am finding ways to combine the two and I'm excited to my core about where I am going artistically. At the end of the day, we all want to be seen, or heard, or understood. We want to be noticed. For me, that's through art. I don't NEED recognition to live my best life, but I WANT it. I want my art to make you happier for having seen it. I want my art collected so that piece of happy will go on long after I've painted my last piece.