The work of Keetra reminds me of the pet projects of Amelie of Montmartre with their infusion of optimism and rich creative nature. Indeed, the parallels continue with the inspirational imagery provided in the course of this interview as well as her fascinating photobooth imagery.
Her creations demonstrate not only a mature aesthetic sensibility but a unique view of the world that is at once unpredictable yet consistently her own. A number of artists working commercially often find that their commercial work spills into their personal work, but in Keetra's case her personal work is dominant. It is her personal vision that permeates her commercial designs. They fit seamlessly with her independent creations.
With little background information available online, she has provided the following information as a background to her work:
A Character Profile of Keetra Dean Dixon, by Joshua Walton.
Some clarification, by Keetra Dean.
Keetra prefers the trashier version of a grilled cheese sandwich.
She used to live in an Igloo and fight bears on a daily basis for survival.
I was born & raised Alaskan.
She only eats the flesh of other designers.
I fall on the veggie side of things, but that never squelches my competitive nature.
She'll punch you (HARD) in the face if you say she can't live without electricity for a week.
I DON'T NEED NO ELECTRIC!
She feels that cars move too slow and days move too quick.
If she ever went to prison she would design the best tats for people.
Oh, and one more thing, she can outshoot me at the gun range every time so keep her on your side for the zombie invasion.
Some standard stats:
Education: MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art + BFA, Minneapolis College of Art & Design
Owns her own studio, From Keetra, in NYC. Often collaborates with the Time and Place Workshop.
And so with heaps of appreciation, I'm very pleased to present the following interview with Keetra.
SIOUXFIRE: Were you creative as a child? Were there any key moments while growing up that shape your work? And at what point did you decide that ‘art’ was your calling?
KEETRA DEAN: Both of my parents have had careers focusing on practical fabrication - seamstress & metal smith. So I grew up in a hands on environment, but I don't think I was any more or less creative than other children. I did make my first cash in high school doing portraits of friends & people in the community. It went from there.
SIOUXFIRE: Are there similarities between how you approach a personal and commercial project? And what are the differences?
KEETRA DEAN: I approach commercial work like I approach gift giving. "What would ____________(insert client name) REALLY want for their Birthday?" Where as un-commissioned work is a present all for me! It's problem solving VS a more indulgent exploration. Either way I am looking to make someone smile.
SIOUXFIRE: What do you hope a person will get from finding one of your public works like little public plaques or Rising Stars? And where do you draw your inspiration for this kind of work?
KEETRA DEAN: Most of my personal work can be labeled Implements of Wonder + Attentive Stimuli. Ideally my work will insight Wonder & Cultivate Critical Attention using: • Surprise • Delight • Discovery • a sense of Play • Vulnerability • Novelty • Confrontation of the unexpected • The combat of pessimism & passivity • Non-traditional forms of interaction
SIOUXFIRE: To me, your work has a consitently positive message even if it’s shrouded in dark humour like your blood puddle pillows. Is that important to you?
KEETRA DEAN: Absolutely. I find myself tripping into a cynical loop at times. I try to inject moments into the daily routine that may break those cynical patterns for myself or a larger community.
SIOUXFIRE: Would you tell us about the different tools and mediums you use and what makes each special to your work? And what are your feelings about digital vs. traditional media?
KEETRA DEAN: In general I try to inserting the unexpected into accepted forms, whatever the medium is. I rarely think about digital & traditional mediums as oppositional or mutually exclusive. In general I try to find the best final form for a project & the most effective way to produce it.
SIOUXFIRE: A Tricky Photobooth is a fascinating project. How did that come about and did things develop? Were you surprised by the results? Is the photobooth still around?
KEETRA DEAN: The Tricky Photobooth was my MFA thesis piece at Cranbrook Academy of Art. I was looking for a light hearted, experiential based tradition with a standardized ritual tied to an individuals public persona. Ideally the booth is displayed in a semi public areas - malls, boardwalks, carnivals etc.
The booth holds no denotation of it's unique qualities. Users enter the booth, pose for 2 shots & exit as usual. During the developing process, the photos are "analyzed" & customized with forecasts consisting of patterns, symbols & messages - the resulting portrait presents an unexpected interference over a traditional photobooth image.
This portrait becomes a custom souvenir of the unexpected. I was completely surprised by how well the booth ended up working. I am always a bit apprehensive about putting my work out there & inadvertently hurting someone in some way, or generally pissing people off. But, in the case of the booth, people respond very positively & seem to be invigorated by the interaction. It is the most I can hope for. The booth is currently being redesigned - the next version will be industrial strength! The original is now retired, it lived a good life.
SIOUXFIRE: Would you choose an image (by anyone aside from yourself) that you think is “great” and explain what makes it special for you? (photo, drawing, etc. – anything you like)
This image is GREAT because it makes me SMILE - ENDLESSLY SMILE!
SIOUXFIRE: What would you say have been the most important things you’ve learned in regard to your work/self in the past few years? And what advice would you give other creatives?
KEETRA DEAN: BE BRAVE! (or maybe just start with baby steps and try to be a little more brave each day. Everything is more fun with baby steps!)
SIOUXFIRE: Would you choose a colour (it doesn’t have to be a favourite) and explain the ideas and feelings it generates for you? This doesn’t need to be a straight answer – express yourself in any way you feel is suitable from an explanation to a haiku or image
KEETRA DEAN: Here is a poem I wrote when I was 10.
"An ode to teal. Teal is the color of the deep blue sea & the thousands of fish that swim beneath. As the daughter of blue when wed to green, teal reminds me of people when lonely. The End."
Currently teal makes me think of "BUM EQUIPMENT" sweatshirts from my youth.
SIOUXFIRE: What are your thoughts on the categorization of arts between “high brow”, “low brow”, “fine art”, and “outsider art”? Do you feel these labels serve any purpose?
KEETRA DEAN: For the sake of productive discussion and a more realistic external perspective categorization can be very beneficial. Segregation of work based on those categories is more difficult to reconcile. I rack it all up to an occasional sticky frustration. I rarely find myself in uncomfortable circumstances due to art labels.
SIOUXFIRE: Are there any other arts that you practice outside your usual work? (music, poetry/writing, filmmaking, sculpture, etc.) And are there any arts/skills that you’re keen to learn?
KEETRA DEAN: I dabble in what ever the work calls for. Right now I am learning a bit more about electricity!!
SIOUXFIRE: What or who inspires you? (musicians, designers, filmmakers, painters, etc.) And why?
SIOUXFIRE: What are you working on now? And what are your aspirations for the future? What will Keetra ideally be doing in 10 years?
KEETRA DEAN: I am trying to hone my wonder skills - it's a tough gig. In ten years I hope to be doing the same, maybe in a bigger pad.
Thank you, Keetra.
From K to J
Keetra profile - Cranbrook Art