Kim Keever and water tanks

Kim Keever (1955), photographer and painter.

New York-based artist Kim Keever’s photographic landscapes may, at first, seem to share the same 19th-century intentions. Clearly, one may be swept up in the beauty and drama of his exotic mountain ranges, seashores and misty bogs, and the evocative play of light suggestive of the setting of the sun or the moon shining through clouds. Yet these convincing spectacles take place, we learn, in a rigged-out fish tank, set up in the artist’s East Village studio, where a deft hand with materials, fluids, pigment and light, along with a keen photographic eye, allows the artist to fool us, initially, into believing these images evolved organically. Part of his process is, ultimately, cluing us in to the human intelligence behind their design.

Keever was on track for a career in “thermodynamics and heat transfer, basically you could call it mechanical engineering,” when he realized “I just really didn’t want to be an engineer, I wanted to be an artist.” He shifted gears, and has never looked back. Naturally, his training in fluid dynamics and concepts of structural integrity has been a valuable asset in his work. Moody and at times otherworldly, Keever’s landscapes evoke not only the natural beauty of our planet but suggest vistas from another reality.

During his transition from budding engineer to fine artist, he spent a number of years as a painter, but ultimately tired of it. Keever found inspiration in Cindy Sherman’s conceptual self-portraits. “I’m always amazed by her personal connection to photography–really very personal. They seemed, and still seem, very inventive.” Although his work lacks Sherman’s figurative reference, one may find a relationship through the painstaking care the artist employs in setting plaster mountains, model trees, bushes and other foliage in place, and creating an immersive environment with gauzy clouds, swirls of paint in water and carefully positioned theatrical gels.

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