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Front Porch #3, 30" x 22", acrylic inks and ink sticks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


Trip to the Mountains II, 56" x 39", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Fraser Spowart




Artist: Anna Keck of Savannah, Georgia, USA.

Interview 94

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Anna Keck is a mixed media artist based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Her current process is creating monoprints on paper using hand-embroidered fabrics. She begins each print series using old photographs to create a collage composition. Using her collage, a line drawing is formed and traced onto fabric, and then embroidered to create a non-traditional, stitched printing plate. Anna has exhibited both nationally and internationally, she attended a one-year residency at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA and her work has been published in New American Paintings, FiberARTS Magazine, and Surface Design Journal. In her formal training she received both a BFA and MFA in Fibers from Savannah College of Art and Design, (SCAD Savannah) where she is currently employed as a Studio Technician, in the Fibers Department. Anna's website.


Artist: Anna Keck.


Tell us about your work?

I create monoprints on paper using embroideries on fabric as my printing plates. My compositions are created from collages using old photographs. I use my own collection of family photos as a jumping off place to explore the concept of truth and fiction in photographs, as well as this "trace" of history left behind for others to interpret. Sometimes I get frustrated looking at my family photos because I'm never really able to discover anything new about the people in them, except the obvious "truths" like what they were wearing, or who else was in the photo. I began to embrace this mystery by creating my own fictitious stories and bringing elements of many photos together into a collage. I eventually began to put images of myself in these collages to dilute the history even further. I also play with the concept of "trace" and it's double meaning in my process. I start by tracing a line drawing from the photo collage onto fabric. Then I trace the drawing created on the fabric by hand stitching the lines with embroidery thread. Finally, when the ink and printing plate dry together, a trace of the stitched fabric is left on the paper when I pull them apart. Collectively, my process blurs the line between truth and fiction, and makes it a challenge for the audience to tell how I create each piece.


Road Trip #2, 30" x 22", Acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


From where do you get your inspiration?

My family photographs are my main source of inspiration, however, since this resource is limited, I have also used photo collections from other sources. Last year, I did several works based on the historical collection of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA. In the spring of 2012, Arrowmont had its twenty-year celebration of the Resident Artist Program in which they invited all previous residents back to the campus for a week of studio time and networking. (I was a resident from 1994-95.) I really wanted this studio time to have a connection to Arrowmont's rich history. It was fun to use another collection of photographs, and combining photos of myself with images of a historical environment where I once lived. I feel closer to this place because of it and I guess that was my ultimate goal when starting to work this way…feeling closer to the history of a past that is also a part of my own past. Even though my art has a personal element to it, I think that others can relate to my work because of the history expressed and the nostalgia experienced when thinking about the past while viewing my work.

My creative friends and colleagues also inspire me. People who are actively pursuing creative careers surround me, and I feel very fortunate to have this support system in place. This is the main reason I moved back to Savannah, Georgia about ten years ago.


Road Trip #6, 30" x 22", Acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

Susan Sontag (b. NY, 1933) and Roland Barthes (b. France, 1915), both philosophers and writers, really helped me "see" old photographs. Both questioned every aspect of looking at a photograph from a subjective standpoint and examined various contexts of viewing and interpreting a reproduced image. They helped me realize that it is the photographer that chooses the moment photographed and they decide what they want the audience to see. When the event is over, the photograph is left behind as a trace of the moment, and a kind of immortal document of an experience that otherwise would not have been enjoyed again.

I love Eva Hesse's work (Jewish - b. Germany, 1936). Even though she is more known for 3-D works and installation, which isn't anything like my work, I admire her for her experimentation with materials and willingness to take risks in her process.


World of Threads Suggests:
"Susan Sontag: On Photography"


Road Trip #7, 30" x 22", Acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint and painting, photo: Anna Keck

Detail: Road Trip #7, 30" x 22", Acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint and painting, photo: Anna Keck


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?  

Chicago based artist, Anne Wilson, is an early influence. I am really drawn to her earlier work when she was sewing human hair onto old linens. Even though her objects were not an image of the memory, they are still traces and reminders of the past and like photographs, do not give much evidence of their history.

French sculptor, Christian Boltanski, is also an influence. He is interested in the concept of a trace left behind and questions mortality in his work. In his early work, he realized the possibility of rewriting history through the use of photos in a given context. He showed how photos could be deceiving when presented a certain way, and anonymity was also prevalent in his work. Even though our work is very different from each other, I see parallels in some of our concepts.

I would also like to mention Joachim Schmid, an artist working in Berlin, Germany. He uses the photograph extensively in his oeuvre, and has mastered the art of bringing together discarded memory using found and abandoned snapshots. He contextualizes an individual's life by placing their memories in the larger context of society's trace. He creates a fiction with his found photographs, but in a different way than I do.


World of Threads Suggests:
"Joachim Schmid: Photoworks 1982-2007"


Front Porch #3, 30" x 22", acrylic inks and ink sticks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck

Detail: Front Porch #3, 30" x 22", acrylic inks and ink sticks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


When did you first discover your creative talents?

When I was about five years old, I played with a girl who lived in my neighbourhood. Her mother was an artist and taught art in a local after-school program. I got to tag along with my friend to her classes, even though it wasn't at my school. I actually still remember going and I was only five years old, so it must have left an impression on me. I just loved it and always remember being interested in making art ever since. Art has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. My family has always supported my interest in art, and for that I will be forever thankful.


Family Reflection #3, 30" x 22", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


When did you know that you would make a career in artistic creation?

I can remember wanting to be an artist as far back as 7th grade. It took me a while to figure out how I was going to make a living from being creative. It has always been my mission to find employment in the arts. I've been pretty lucky regarding this. I've always felt the need to find a steady job to support myself. Currently, I work as a Studio Technician in the Fibers Department at Savannah College of Art and Design. This work environment feeds my creative soul in ways that are unexpected. Helping students with their projects on the equipment is so rewarding. I'm also constantly learning from the students and my colleagues, and this educational environment helps me keep up with what's going on in the field of fibres. My job requires me to maintain, use and/or repair the technical equipment we have in our department. (Jacquard loom, AVL looms, digital textile printer, Hollander beater, flatbed felting machine, knitting machines, and many more!). Even though, I do not use this equipment in my current process, I have the knowledge and access to do so if I want to.


Trip to the Mountains I, 56" x 39", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Fraser Spowart

Trip to the Mountains II, 56" x 39", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Fraser Spowart

Detail: Trip to the Mountains II, 56" x 39", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Fraser Spowart.


Please explain how you developed your own style.

I wanted to use a process in lieu of my concept of "trace." I struggled to find my own voice in the concepts I was working with and I also knew I wanted to use my collection of photos in a unique way. Discovering this process came to me by traveling a very slow path of experimentation and really analyzing every aspect of my concepts, process and material choices. I had an "Aha" moment, and I ran with it. In retrospect, I think it is very important to experiment, play, and not be afraid to make mistakes.


Christmas 1950 II, 56" x 39", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Fraser Spowart


Do you think the interest in fibre art is increasing and why?

Absolutely. When I was first introduced to the fibres field more than twenty years ago, you rarely saw fibre work alongside paintings or sculpture. Fibre art always seemed to be categorized with craftwork, which is taken less seriously than fine art by galleries and critics, which can influence what an audience values. Now, you see fibre work in fine art exhibitions all the time. There are more crossovers with mediums in contemporary exhibitions than ever. It has been a slow progression over the years. I first noticed the shift in my own experience as an artist when my weaving was accepted into the publication, New American Paintings in 2004. At the time, I was weaving my paintings, so there was an obvious crossover, but it was rare for my work to be accepted in such avenues alongside painting.


Process Shot.

Process Shot.


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

My studio is in our house. We invested in an old home built in the 1940s that we are slowly renovating ourselves, so my creative place has moved around the house. My studio is currently in the formal living room. Several years ago I rented a space away from the house, but as my process changed, it wasn't practical to have my space away from home. With my current way of working, there is a lot of wait time, so having my studio at home allows me to work in stages, while also juggling the other duties that life demands.

Since we have taken on this major house project, I bounce back and forth between art projects and house projects. I really enjoy the sense of accomplishment with our house renovation. Creating our living space is just one big art project in my eyes. I have learned so much about renovating houses. (This is my third house renovation). Because of this experience, I'm comfortable with most power tools, and this knowledge has been very useful when faced with certain creative challenges.


Process Shot.

Process Shot.


How do you describe your art to people?

I usually tell people "I print with ink and stitched fabric on paper." That's usually enough information for them to begin asking questions, so I can elaborate and talk more about the concepts behind the work. People are usually very curious, especially about the process, because it is unique and when looking at a print, it is usually hard to tell how the work is created.


Picnic #2, 30" x 22", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck

Detail: Picnic #4, 30" x 22", india ink on 100% cotton paper (light blue), monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


If you reflect on your career as a fibre artist, what achievement are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my time as a resident artist at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. The residency awarded me a full year of creative focus. I realize now more than ever, how valuable that time was for me. The ability to focus on my own art without the distraction of every day obligation, was pivotal to who I am as an artist. The experience set the tone for my studio practice and helped me develop professionalism, clarification and dedication to my studio practice. I found my voice during this time.



Arrowmont: Spinning Wheel (collage inspiration), 8" x 5", photoshop collage using 4 photographs

Arrowmont: Spinning Wheel (series printing plate), 30" x 22", cotton embroidery floss on cotton fabric, Embroidery, photo: Anna Keck


Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

I'm still having a lot of fun printing my embroideries, however, five years is a long time. For all I know, I could be creating work with an entirely different process five years from now. Experimenting is what is so fun about creating. I've always been attracted to mediums that are hard to control. It is the element of surprise that is fun for me. Not knowing how a print will dry excites me. I can't wait to take off the fabric during the final drying stages to see what ink marks are left on the paper. My next way of working, if it changes in the next five years, will likely have that same element of surprise. I don't like to limit myself though. My favourite genre of artwork in galleries has always been installation. My studio spaces have always limited me spatially, which is part of why I'm currently working so small, so installation is not something I have explored yet. I'm not ruling it out though.


Arrowmont: Spinning Wheel #2, 30" x 22", acrylic inks and ink sticks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck

Detail: Arrowmont: Spinning Wheel #2, 30" x 22", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


What interests you about the World of Threads festival?

I am always interested in organizations that make it their goal to educate the public about the use of fibre as a medium in the Contemporary Art domain. By bringing together artists from all over the world whose work crosses over into the fibre territory, helps to validate its importance as a medium. I especially want to thank the World of Threads Festival for an outstanding effort to bring the fibre medium into the spotlight of the contemporary art world!


Arrowmont: Spinning Wheel #4, 30" x 22", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck

Arrowmont: Spinning Wheel #5, 30" x 22", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper (tan), monoprint, photo: Anna Keck


Is there something else you would like us to know about you/your artwork, which we have not covered?

I would like to include a little more about my concept and process. What I didn't mention above is that I often create two prints at once by sandwiching the embroidered fabric between two sheets of paper creating a mirror image, which shows two different perspectives of the composition. Also, how the ink marks the paper is dependent on if the paper is on the bottom or on the top of the stitched fabric. (Example: Trip to the Mountains I and II were printed at the same time).

Family photographs are often taken during celebrations, vacations, holidays and other meaningful events in someone's life. More often, they are representing a happy moment and I'm more interested in what's really going on in a photo. For example, if you look at a photo that has two figures in it, there is the perspective of four people to consider: the two people in the photo, the person taking the photo and the person viewing the photo. The only "truth" we know is that there are two people in the photo. We may never know who took the photo, or why they took it, but it clearly represents what they focused the camera on and when they took the shot. We also don't know if the two people in the photo are smiling because they are happy, or if the photographer asked them to say "cheese." These perspectives are often forgotten when looking at family photos. I'm interested in all of these perspectives, and because I'm working back in to prints and printing many layers over on top of each other and creating multiple prints from the same embroidery, this further adds to the concept of everyone having different perspectives of the same event. Each mono-print is unique much like the perspective of each person.


Arrowmont:Feeding the Pigs #1, 30" x 22", acrylic inks on 100% cotton paper, monoprint, photo: Anna Keck



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