Colleen Keihm – Chicago, Illinois

"Side", Archival Inkjet Print, 2014

“Side”, Archival Inkjet Print, 2014

Briefly describe the work you do.

My attempts to connect to places and people offer a greater understanding of time, care, and the structure that happens in between. Photography is the perfect vehicle to comprehend this. I’m drawn to the structure present in light and in what it illuminates. Through the use of photography, video, and performance, I am also able to analyze and preserve not only what is being illuminated by light, but how.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I was born in Levittown, NY and currently reside in Chicago, IL. Preferring a slowness that allows for time spent and attention given, I use my large format camera or performative actions to evaluate the best way to embody the idea of home, how beliefs arise, and modern familial relationships.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

I am easily seduced by light. It draws me into and out of spaces, as its formlessness is something I hope to render, to share. My studio space has documents I’ve made attached to its walls so they may interact with the light that passes through the room each day. I document a window with instant film then tape each to the wall letting them fall if they may. Mine is a studio practice of waiting, of watching, and enjoying what happens without my influence. In these moments of surprise I learn my next move.

"Slit, In Warm Light", Archival Inkjet Print, 2014

“Slit, In Warm Light”,
Archival Inkjet Print, 2014

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

Only recently did I realize how important social interaction was to my work and that producing for seeing isn’t as paramount as sharing the act of looking. Working with the large format camera garners attention, which I’ve learned to relish. Viewing through the back of the camera with someone is a momentary experience that is missed once the shutter is closed but it is also a chance to really stare at something. This is where I begin. The excitement of just looking is what fuels my need for the camera in the first place. If I share that with someone interested in seeing what I’m seeing, then the experience we share is just as important as the document I could make.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?

Quality of light is often my inspiration to photograph. My favorite time of day is blue time. That’s the 20-40 minutes after the sun sets and we’re in its shadow. Cloudy days are best for photographing but I get my best inspiration from this blue time. And photography is a practice like any other. You improve if you have the camera in your hand every day but what is important to me is to practice looking, really looking, as much of the day as possible.

"Footwashing", Performance, 2014

“Footwashing”, Performance, 2014

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

Within the last two years, I’ve expanded my practice to include performance and video. This offers new ways of experiencing and looking. With performance, I generate the work with participants so that we may learn from each other. Video is often the document of this interaction. Both allow me to give a seemingly simple moment greater importance.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

My grandmother influenced me to be an artist. She wore suits to weddings, read Shakespeare and loved Renoir. She taught me to braid my hair and care for others. These were little things with tremendous impact.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

I really like puzzles so sometimes I think it’s be fun being an electrician or a mathematician. They have the ability to decipher, build and dismantle with their knowledge of the inner workings of things. They are able to find problems and fix them or prove them. Being an artist, I think we do something similar. Our tasks and end game (and our problems) are just different.


Colleen Keihm is an artist born in Levittown, NY. She prefers a slowness that allows for time spent and attention given to things while working with photography, video and performance. Using these media, she evaluates the best way to embody the idea of home, how beliefs arise, and modern familial relationships.



All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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