February 15, 2014
Keith Howard and I meet for coffee at the Source, an incredible collection of small markets, cafes, restaurants and businesses housed within the immense vaulted enclosure of a former foundry. We are enjoying a warmish day in a cold winter.
May I ask your age?
Where were you born?
I was born in Sharon, Connecticut. It is a small town located in the northwest corner of the state. We lived in a converted grist mill that bordered the Little River. This was the source for the mill's power. We lived there only for the first year of my life (Keith made a pilgrimage to visit this house when he was older)...
[Keith's father was a computer engineer and was engaged in work that took the family to many places in Keith's early years. When he was 7 his parents divorced. After the divorce, when Keith was still quite young, he lived in New York City. His mother worked in the offices of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was respected for her intelligence and skill and was well liked.]
Were there individuals at the museum that you recall?
Yes, two specifically; Stuart Silver and Vincent Cuilla. Both worked as exhibition designers. They were very kind to me. I was introduced to their professional world. They were often presented with challenging and daunting work where they had to handle very fragile art and develop ways to present it to the public in an honorable manner. I was able to observe these activities.
When did you arrive in Denver?
I moved to Denver in 1993 to attend graduate school in architecture at UCD. Getting the masters in architecture was an effort "to clean up loose ends". Keith characterizes his relationship to architecture as, "...one of those important and messy love affairs that you never quite figure out...".
When did art, and art making, first become a part of your life?
Probably in college. [Keith went to Pomona College in Southern California] I majored in art history. Studio art was offered however I simply did not think I was good enough. I was very good at art history and I chose it as my major because I thought it was a field in which I would excel. Maybe I was afraid of failing publicly in studio art. In any case, I did take a few studio courses, drawing and painting. I found the classes difficult.
Did you continue with art after college?
No. The time after college was a time of adventure and great challenge. It was an accrual of circumstances, some minor and some very profound, that led me to a time, perhaps ten years after I finished Pomona, where I felt I had to make art.
What was the art like?
It varied. There was drawing in graphite and pen and ink that was representative, and there were abstract pastels.
Can you describe your artistic process?
Art making is a lot like farming. You have to tend the soil and irrigate, and you have to weed. Working on art is the most important part of the process - to be in the studio working: sketching, building models made of cardboard and then drawing them, or even making random lines on paper. Sitting and thinking about the art, about what to do - those moments I avoid. It is hard to learn when you are sitting still. You also have to take care of the infrastructure.
The parts of your life that feed into the making of art. For me that includes a spiritual practice, spending time in nature, and being a part of a community of artists.
How would you describe your work? How does it present itself visually?
My work looks like an aggregation of random marks. However the marks are far from random. Brice Marden is an important influence. The draftsmanship in his work demarcates negative space. His work is a validation of my thinking. The concepts associated with field painting are also important.
Are there other artists?
The work of Cy Twombly and the painting of Jasper Johns that incorporated hatchwork. There are also affinities with the work of Pollock however he is such an icon. I'm reluctant to even think of my work and his in the same sentence. More specifically, Pollock does not seem to address the issues of negative space in the ways that Marden does, and that is very important to me.
Is content important?
If content is defined as something that has historical or social references, or something that is a symbol for something else, then perhaps not. I have not been able to incorporate those things into my work. I admire people who utilize content however I am more of a non-objective artist. I am predisposed to that.
Do you have any expectations of the viewer?
I have learned not to.