Keeley Haftner’s practice is diverse and tangential, in a variety of mediums. In a recent conversation, she commented that when she works in printmaking, her focus is more political; when painting, the historical considerations of art history are always in mind; and when sculpting, ideas of waste and the environment, often manifest literally in her materials, comes to the fore.
Currently based out of Saskatoon, Keeley’s practice explores “notions of tradition, satire, gender, archive, labour, and transience. Though seemingly eclectic, her work consistently reevaluates diametrical extremes and amplifies grey areas in everyday spaces, objects or images”. Her website has a wide range of images and information about her practice, and the list of grants and awards is impressive. Some of you may have been introduced to her work with her participation in the last incarnation of AKA’s Art Walk with her Super Surprise Bags.
She obtained her BFA from Mount Allison, in Sackville, New Brunswick. Her CV, as an emerging artist, is significant: “In 2011 she participated in and became the New Brunswick winner of BMO Financial Group’s 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition, she has done a number of residencies across Canada and the U.S, and she participated in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche for 2012 in collaboration with two printmaking collectives based out of Toronto”.
You can read an article about that project written by Ashleigh Mattern here, under the engaging banner of Find My Woodcut, which talks about her residency at Graven Feather Studios, in Toronto. You can see a variety of the woodcuts she produced for this at her web site, and I’ve included several of my favourites here.
Pushing out of gallery spaces and looking at alternative sites to have meaningful exchanges with larger communities through art making is a common theme of Haftner’s work. This was an idea that she explored with her project in Nuit Blanche 2012 in Toronto, where visitors could take a work and “install” it elsewhere, passing on an image to Keeley to be posted online at Tumblr, challenging the often very closed definition of ‘artist’ or ‘an artistic space’.
Another site in which audience and community played a large role in her work was with her residency at the Bruno Arts Bank, in Bruno, Saskatchewan. She commented that the community saw the work being made, and got to see process come to fruition. The Waste Warrior Women of the Post Saskatchewan Apocalypse is a series that again, has humour, but in terms of what it touches upon in feminism and ecology (the costumes of the warrior women depicted are made from found discards, hence post apocalyptic) can be also be disconcerting.
Right now, you can see works in paint and print by Haftner at Positive Passions: the exhibition Porn Portraits also explores ideas that could be described as feminist, or simply about how we engage, express and commodify our sexuality. The four massive paintings were created in 2011 when she was doing a residency in Vermont (Keeley is focused upon residencies, and spaces within which she can produce work, in that period between finishing your BFA and considering options and weighing ideas about pursuing an MFA). The flat background colours are paint store chips that also provide the (outrageously sexist) names of the works: “Mood Swings”, “Never enough shoes”, “Domestic Goddess” and “Charge it!”. Haftner has used Gary Neill Kennedey’s The Native (Painting on Canvas) as a jumping off point. These works initially seem very “in your face” (pun intended), but you find yourself as unsteady in such a shallow reading as how, when seeing that the “hot spots” of semen are painted the same colours as the flat backgrounds, you lose a sense of proportion and flip back and forth on the picture plane.
When we spoke of her practice, she spoke of how working in painting is a difficult process, often like a struggle.
The woodcuts are more recent, having been done leading up to the show, and are somewhat of a response to dialogue and critiques around the paintings: working with almost acidic blues instead of the “girly” pinks and purples, their scale is also meant to reference back to the internet videos which were the source, more emphasizing interaction, and are titled “Facial Monoprint as Multiple”.
Porn Portraits (like much of Haftner’s work) is both a serious and playful investigation of desire, gender, audience and context, and revisits how “context can be everything” in the works and interventions that Haftner produces in her emerging practice.
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