Featured Artist: Jillian Keats

Name:  Jillian Keats
Age:  22
Hometown:  Lakewood, NJ
Current town:  Bloomfield, NJ
Job description:  College senior, retail zombie, gallery manager, artist’s assistant, fine art photographer, frontwoman, earthling.
Bio:  South Jersey native, I have always had a passion for creating in any way possible.  Upon attending Montclair State University, I decided to funnel all my creative energies into photography, and fell in love with the black and white darkroom process.  More recently, I’ve expanded to experiment with alternative process photography.  I love the magical way it turns a photograph into a precious sort of art-object, and the sort of washy ethereal quality you can achieve through certain processes.

Outside of making art, I love to cook huge amount of food for my friends, and sing in a hardcore punk quintet called Ides, which has turned out to be one of the most fun and fulfilling things I’ve ever done with my life.

anxietyofintimacy web
What are you working on/ describe your work:

“Mythology//Psychology” is my first full body of work, a group of photographic still lives representing idiosyncrasies of the human psychological makeup; personality quirks and character flaws.  Think of it as a Cabinet of Curiosities of the human mind.
Upcoming projects:  
“Dreamlines”:  an ongoing project, photo-objects of medium format Holga images as brownprints accompanied by these one-liners.  The images are suspended or strung together, like a timeline or walkthrough of a dream you don’t quite understand.

Music is my second passion, and I’ve been involved in the New Jersey punk and hardcore scene for close to 10 years.  I am in the process of drafting a video project of a series of interviews and short performances of local bands I see perform/perform with.  My working title is “New Jersey’s Got Issues”.

What’s your art background / when did you begin really focusing on art?
I hate to be using such a cliche but art and the act of creating has been something surrounding my life in many forms since my conception.  My great grandfather was a painter, my great aunt is a painter and a sculptor, my grandmother was a seamstress, and my parents were involved in community theater in their younger years (there are infamous stories of me scooting around in a walker in a high school auditorium while my mother directed musicals).  Growing up I always kept myself busy–building, drawing, playing cello, singing in choirs and ensembles.

Unfortunately, the school system I was unceremoniously pushed through (I was smart, but not valedictorian material at all, and so was sort of overlooked in many aspects) was focused mostly on math and science, and the arts programs suffered.  I did not get any sort of formal artistic training until I started attending Montclair State University in 2009.

What’s been happening in your life/ what’s next for you?
I am at a very important crossroads in my life!  I’m in my final semester of college, about to graduate with a BFA in photography.  I am planning on taking a few years off before grad school–the old noggin needs a vacation, and I think it’s important for any artist to make work outside of an academic setting for a period.  So, I am scouring NYFA and craigslist for some freelance work, applying to shows, and trying to get my feet wet in the world of art firsthand.
Describe your current state of mind / what’s inspiring you?
My state of mind is that of any college senior–frantic, panicking, on the verge of an existential crisis.  However I wouldn’t trade it for the world; I am 100% focused on my work and I may never again have the opportunity to immerse myself so fully in it.  I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life!

I am inspired by the visceral quality of objects and surfaces, the quirks of the human personality, the occult, deepsea marine life, things I find in estate sales/thrift stores, Julia Kristeva’s essays on abjection, the unknown, and of course the imagery and philosophies of David Lynch.

taken by Haylee Anne
taken by Haylee Anne

Any exhibits coming up/ past exhibits you’d like to mention?

Unfortunately the past few months have been nothing but elbow grease–I’m finishing up my thesis project, my first real “body” of work.  I am going to be part of Montclair State’s BFA show in May at the George Segal Gallery on Montclair State’s campus, and most of my energy is being thrown into putting everything together for that.  I was had my first solo show at Index Art Gallery in Newark, NJ in January, and I have been actively applying for shows for the spring and summer.  I will keep an active list of shows on my website jilliankeats.carbonmade.com
taken by Haylee Anne
taken by Haylee Anne

Has the meaning of your work changed over time?

My work used to be strictly narrative or illustrative–now it still has a symbolic or conceptual meaning, but I think it’s a lot quieter.  It’s saying a lot, with a lot less. However, there will always be this slight tension or anxiousness running throughout my work.  There is something slightly unsettling about it, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Are you involved with any organizations/ do you collaborate with other artists?

I am an assistant to lenticular artist Richard Cutrona.  I manage his gallery and he’s taught me the lenticular process, which is totally fascinating.  And I get to use power tools!
What are you listening to these days?
The Cranberries, The Mountain Goats’ “Transcendental Youth”, Lou Reed, Moss Icon, Rilo Kiley, 60s female pop groups like The Shangri-Las, The Jam’s “This Is the Modern World”, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!”

What are a few of your favorite spots in (the area in which you live)?

If you want to reach enlightenment through breakfast foods, go to Rutherford Pancake House.

When I need to escape reality for a few hours and exercise my eye outside of the studio, I go for a walk at the Van Vleck House botanical garden in Montclair or Kip’s Castle in Verona.

What is your ideal job? 
Am I too old to say astronaut or super hero?

Favorite artists/people in your field whom you most admire: 

Joseph Cornell, Guido Mocafico, Nick Blinko, Hieronymous Bosch, Joel-Peter Witkin, Zeke Berman, Raymond Pettibon, Mark McCoy.

What are you reading? 

The “Battle Royale” novelization, way too many VICE Magazine articles, and “Secret Doors of the Universe” by Jacuqes Bergier.


Favorite authors, fiction: 

HP Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Robert Heinlein, William Faulkner, Piers Anthony, Voltaire, Jorges Luis Borges
Favorite authors, nonfiction:  No favorite nonfiction authors but some titles – the Nick Drake biography – “Darker Than the Deepest Sea”; “Surrealism and the Occult”; essays on queer theory and anarcha-feminism.

Your website(s):  jilliankeats.carbonmade.com


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