Luminous Liaisons by Brian Keeler at Rodger Lapelle Galleries
by Mary Anna Rodabaugh
While traveling in Italy, artist Brian Keeler oftentimes finds himself painting the same landscape his mentor, French landscape and portrait artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painted in the early 1800s. The terrain has evolved but Keeler’s homage to Corot is clearly represented in his landscapes from Italy. In his figure paintings, Corot enjoyed painting mythological characters among peasants. Keeler enjoys mixing allegorical themes in contemporary settings.
A great example of this is Keeler’s Icarus & Daedelus – The Night Before. In this oil work, Icarus is seen wearing a suit and flying outside of a large Victorian house at night. The indoor lights of the majestic house illuminate the figures. An American flag sits perched on the front porch. Daedelus watches on. Here are two allegorical characters going for a test flight outside a house in Maine. The juxtaposition is seamless yet intriguing.
You may remember Brian Keeler from a previous Main Course article highlighting his last show at Rodger Lapelle Galleries, located at 122 N. Third Street. Keeler, the artist with such a versatile style he can’t be classified into a singular domain, is back for his third show at Rodger Lapelle Galleries. Luminous Liaisons, a 61-piece exhibit, features Keeler’s work from Italy and America.
Keeler’s most recent painting, Cayuga Crepascular Light, with Three Graces features three nude women standing together next to a beautiful waterscape. The women represent the Three Graces, goddesses of Beauty, Mirth and Abundance.
“I like to make the connection to paintings of Renaissance Greek Antiquity. The landscape is from Ithaca, New York,” Keeler said.
Warmth was a dominant theme in Keeler’s show; a delightful sight for visitors on an icy First Friday in March. In Cultivatorie, a man is seen raking hay in the hot summer sun. He is wearing a white tank top, khaki pants and a blue baseball cap.
“I can feel the warmth coming off his back,” Keeler’s partner, Linda Graves said, gesturing toward the subject’s glistening tan skin.
Keeler’s ability to trigger senses beyond sight is impeccable. He has mastered the skill of perspective, drawing viewers into the work and allowing them to feel things beyond emotion.
Much of Keeler’s exhibit featured pieces from Italy and Ithaca, but several local pieces are bound to delight Philadelphians. In Interior/Exterior, Keeler captures the activity occurring inside a local beauty parlor while simultaneously depicting life on the outside sidewalk. The Arden Theatre can be seen in the background of this multiple perspective work. From the light reflecting off the shop’s glass window to the shadows adjacent to pedestrians walking by, Keeler’s attention to detail is solid.
Luminous Liaisons also contains several “in-action” self-portraits of Keeler painting. In all of these works, Keeler makes sure he is not the primary focus. He is simply a part of the greater landscape or another figure in the room. In Tea Time for Models, Keeler is seen off to the right painting two nude figure models as Linda, fully-clothed, serves them tea.
Keeler’s signature blend of styles is evident in this show. His landscapes contain hints of impressionism while his allegorical works flirt with Neoclassicism. Church and Pumps, a painting depicting a church and a Texaco gas station in Tunkhannock, PA, borders on Realism with extremely thin, fine lines and sharp details. The parking lot is saturated with rain and the gas station signs are clearly recognizable.
“I was comparing 19th century buildings to modern glitzy architecture,” Keeler said.
This large and versatile exhibit is not the only accomplishment Keeler is celebrating. His book, Dramatic Color in the Landscape, published by North Light Books, is now available for purchase.
“I started doing a monograph of a thing, taking a retrospective look at my career,” Keeler said.
Keeler’s autobiography concept wasn’t met with much enthusiasm until North Light Books suggested Keeler take an instructional approach. He restructured his plan into a condensed package of landscape and townscape instruction.
“It’s a compendium of my teaching and painting techniques,” Keeler said.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s 21st century landscape mentee continues to serve as a mentor for other artists. It is in this way that Corot’s spirit lives on.
Each year Brian Keeler leads an intensive landscape and figure painting in workshop for artists and art students. Paint Rome: Tuscany and Umbria with Brian Keeler will take place May 16 to May 31. Visit www.briankeeler.com for more information.