Printmaker Mike Keyes gets back to nature, then gets serious about woodprint
You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.
Mike Keyes, originally from Dayton, Ohio, spent much of his adult life in Athens, "which is in the southeast corner of the state," he explains, calling the place "a college town you don't hear about much." Athens also happens to be designated Appalachian country with rolling hills and a beautiful countryside. "It's kind of an impoverished area and has a heritage of coal-mining families," Keyes continues. This rural Ohio landscape and the people who dwell there have inspired much of Keyes's work, including the detailed woodcuts currently brightening the walls at Kaladi Brothers Coffee.
Keyes and his wife moved to Athens when their oldest son was five, opting for land outside of town. "We built a house from scratch, did gardening, had ponies," recalls Keyes. "For a short time we raised sheep." The family was part of the small but passionate back-to-land movement.
"I started doing woodcuts shortly after moving to the farm, when we were still building the house," Keyes says. The winter of 1977 was one of the coldest on record; for weeks, ten below zero was the high. "We were relying on firewood from a wood stove and hadn't gotten the water system completed yet," Keyes recalls. It was this dark, cold time that inspired Keyes' first print, "Heating with Wood."
The artist holds an MFA in printmaking and, for a number of years, he and his wife, who makes wreaths with dried flowers, appeared at craft fairs together where they'd sell handmade wreaths, honeysuckle and grape vine baskets, and Keyes's woodcut prints.
Keep reading for more from Mike Keyes.
1730 E. Evans Ave., Denver, CO