Artist Profile: Kim Keever

Hello there. It’s been a while, I know, but it’s only because I’ve been busy gathering great material for you!

I’m really excited about this year, because it’s already started off in a promising way with creative and provocative exhibitions. Maybe it’s something about it being the year of the Monkey…

There are a few artists whose studios I had the chance to visit last December, and I wanted to share the experience with you. One of these artists is photographer Kim Keever, whom I had been wanting to see in action for a long time. Don’t know who Kim Keever is? You’ve probably seen his work somewhere without realizing it. When I first learned of his photographs, it was at the Museum of Art and Design‘s “Otherwordly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities” exhibition in 2011. At that time, he was creating fantastical landscapes with the help of a giant ( 200 gallon) water tank. This is one of the images in the show:

Kim Keever, "West 104K", 46"x72", 2009
Kim Keever, “West 104K”, 46″x72″, 2009

“Otherworldly” could just as well have been the title for this photograph! I remember being immediately drawn to the unusual landscapes, struck by their depth, the colors, the primordial-ness of the atmosphere where you can just as easily imagine a dinosaur walking among the trees as you could a fight between cowboys and Native Americans.

You can see that Keever’s background in painting is an influence— it shows through in the painterly compositions of each photograph. Notice the parallels between Keever’s underwater world and one of Thomas Cole‘s (pioneer of the Hudson River School) atmospheric paintings:


Thomas Cole, "A Wild Scene", oil on canvas, 1832
Thomas Cole, “A Wild Scene”, oil on canvas, 1832

…Look at the moody skies, prominent foreground, and romantic landscape continuing into the horizon…

In a similar progression as many successful painters, Keever started off with a more structured tableau or composition, and ultimately veered towards the abstract. Having experimented with ink in water to create atmosphere in all his photographs, Keever then realized that what he was most curious about was the transformation of the ink in the water. 


Now, I recently went to see the last ballet performances of the NYC Ballet season, and I have to say that watching the dancers perform one of George Balanchine’s masterpieces I couldn’t help but think of Keever’s photographs and the way the ink acts like silk dancing through the air. While watching the ballerinas’ loose hair rippling behind them, and their skirts flowing gracefully in between leaps and pirouettes, I imagined the unpredictable pivots and twirls of the ink in Keever’s photographs: 




Don’t these images make you think of ballet dancers?

Before he was a full time artist, Kim Keever studied Engineering at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA and was briefly a thermal engineer working primarily on NASA projects. When I learned this, all of a sudden everything made sense. His inquisitive nature is apparent upon meeting him, and you can tell that the driving force behind each artwork is genuine curiosity. It’s as though each image is a snapshot of individual experiments- not one can be replicated in the same way. 

Below are a few of his abstract photographs:


Like a Rorschach test, everyone sees something different in each image.


What do you see?


My cousin Roberto Celis, who is also a fantastic artist, accompanied me to Kim Keever’s studio to interview him. Below you can see clips from our visit:

In the first two clips, Keever introduces ink into the clean tank, and Roberto coins a new term “jellyfishing“:



Asked about whether he has any preconceived plan of where to add the ink, Keever says that it’s more of a “random” action. He would rather be surprised by what develops:



And then when the moment is right, it’s time to capture the art:




You can see more of Kim Keever’s work on his website here.



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