Opening today, May 2, 2016, at the Vancleave Public Library is an exhibition of ceramic pots and face jugs by Michael Keen, a self-taught potter in Vancleave, Mississippi. He calls his series of recent face jugs “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” for their angelic, devilish, or disfigured features and characteristics.
Born in New Orleans in 1957, Michael Keen’s family lived on the East Coast until 1967, when his father retired from the U. S. Coast Guard. At age 10, Keen moved with his parents to Pascagoula, where his mother and father first met.
“I was enrolled into a correspondence course in the early 70s with ‘Famous artist course’ of Westport Connecticut,” Keen writes in an email. “This taught me drawing techniques and eventually led me to painting. After graduating high school I followed in my father’s footsteps and join the U. S. Coast Guard.”
(Click on the artworks below to view the titles.)
Eager to build upon his correspondence-course education in art, Michael Keen met some of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s most accomplished artists, including Dusti Bongé. He writes about her influence:
I read her book in the early 80s and contacted her to tell her how much I enjoyed her abstract paintings. She thanked me and invited me over several times to her watercolor studio on the beachfront and to her primary oil studio to critique some of my work. She taught me to stay loose in a painting not to take it too far. She also taught me to write a poem or a little story about each painting as she did in her book. She signed one of her books for me, and wrote keep up the good work! I wish now I would have negotiated a purchase of one of her paintings.
Another talent I met in the late 70’s was Peter Anderson, at Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs. It was great to see a man doing what he loved and was able to support his family at the same time. I am friends with Jim Anderson; he and I both served in the U. S. Coast Guard.
“I have been making pottery off and on for the past 25 years,” he says. “Since I’m self-taught on the potter’s wheel, I fall into the Folk Potter category.”
Keen’s exhibition will be up for the month of May. For more information about his pottery, contact the artist at Mikemkeen@yahoo.com.
All artwork is copyright (c) Michael Keen. Photos are courtesy of Michael Keen and are used with permission.