Way back in the Fall, I took to a trip to a nowhere spot in Brooklyn to interview Keating Sherwin -- the tantalizingly reclusive artist whose portraits are as viscerally powerful as her painter's uniform of paint-stained overalls and no-nonsense boots. Having never been one to stay on the straight-and-narrow path -- I've been a Conde Nast editor, a full-time mom, a yoga teacher, and, most recently, the co-founder of a startup with my 25-year-old daughter -- I totally relate to the zig-zag route that has led Keating to her calling.
The piercing, polished rawness of Keating's style and art made it impossible to share with you only a few photos. For some visual stimulation that'll make you want to lock yourself in a basement and do nothing but paint Egon Schiele-esque portraits, check out Keating's story below.
"I worked in marketing for a year. I was an executive assistant to a global CEO. With no logistical prowess, I was the worst assistant of all time. So I started working in a fashion showroom, but I wasn't doing anything hands-on with clothes -- I was just entering lists into computers. Eventually, I moonlighted as a cocktail waitress on a rooftop and did makeup for photo shoots, which I hated. Everyone is watching you, and I'm a perfectionist to a fault, so I could just sit there with the model forever."
"Finally, at 24, I had an identity crisis. I was living in a converted two-bedroom East Village apartment with two girls -- one worked in PR, the other had a corporate job. I painted my bedroom walls with giant faces. It was nutty. My roommates asked, 'What is going on with you?' I realized that whatever I was trying to make happen wasn't going to happen in that apartment. I told my roommates I had to move out. I moved to a basement in Brooklyn. For six months, I had no windows. It was a weird way to live and a dark winter. But I had the entire place to myself to just make a painting."
"I kept asking myself, 'What am I painting?' I wasn’t finding something that was exciting and that I wanted to stick with. I was living with my ex in No Man's Land near Dumbo. At the end of the block there was a library (which, in this town, is fabulous, because you can order any book you want). My boyfriend checked out Marin Gayford's Man with a Blue Scarf. Gayford sat for Lucian Freud and loosely journaled about the experience. Before reading that, I never considered painting people from life. Afterwards, I told myself, 'I have to try this.' My good friend and neighbor, Georgia, was my first. There were four or five sittings. At first, she wore a fedora and lace bra, but that made her seem like she was at a cabaret, so I had to undress her. She was so intuitive and understanding about what I was trying to do. I couldn't have asked for a better first person to help me through this scary experiment."
"I don't want to paint someone who's not a friend. I need to be in love with you in order to paint you. Mostly, my paintings are intuitive accidents. I’m not a schooled painter. I see why a lot of people who go to art school don’t become artists. The more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know a damn thing. After I declared to everyone that I was a painter, I just forced myself to own up to it."
"My interest in fashion has dwindled to basically nothing. Not to say that I don’t appreciate craftsmanship and a beautiful garment -- I do. But, practically, it doesn’t make sense for my life. I’m in a paint studio. I remember dying for some sort of white overall get-up that I could paint in. When I bought a pair, I was so sad the next day about how dirty they had already become. 'They were so white!' I cried."
Photographed and interviewed by Elisa Goodkind
For more information on Keating, click here.