Maddy Keener is an acrylic painter based in Richmond, VA. She graduated summa cum laude and received degrees in Arts Administration and English from Goshen College, where she participated in numerous campus exhibitions, served as editor-in-chief of the school literary arts journal, and received awards and a scholarship for her drawings and paintings. Since graduating, she has exhibited in group shows around Richmond and Northern Virginia. Portraits are her main areas of focus, and, using friends and family as subjects, she seeks to capture human expression, power, and autonomy. When she’s not painting portraits, she draws intricate floral studies to explore connections between flowers and childhood associations. She has a love for plants, patterns, textiles, glassware, and beautifully prepared food, all of which inspire her work. She is currently using her art to process and rely her experiences as a server working throughout the pandemic, and creates intricate and symbol-laden scenes of diners sharing meals in restaurants.
My portraiture captures the nuances of human expression, strength, and the relationship between the subject and the viewer. The subjects in my paintings are all friends, family, or myself, so it is vital to represent them honestly and uniquely to their personhood. Growing up as a woman has made me aware that the ways society interacts with femininity can be disempowering. Femininity is utilized to gain societal footholds, but is constantly on view for public consumption. My discomfort with this accessibility, in juxtaposition with my identification with femininity, has culminated in portraiture that subverts the docile role of women in art. Instead of acting as objects up for appraisal, my subjects challenge the viewer, reclaiming occupied space with self possession and power.
"The pandemic has informed my recent body of work, but I continue to explore themes of accessibility, compliance, and personhood. This current series is about seeking comfort from loved ones during the pandemic, as translated to restaurant settings, and informed by my experience as a server. My work highlights the exploitation of restaurant workers to provide entertainment and normalcy at the risk of their health. Rather than be seen, the servers in my paintings are missing, leaving only disembodied fragments of their work, thus preserving their autonomy by not requiring their performance. The diners, instead, are on view and up for judgment, and, seated at the table, the viewer must also understand their compliance in the scene. However, my subjects are not villains; they are all people in my inner circle, navigating isolation and the desire for the luxury and intimacy of sharing a meal. The sense of luxury is heightened by the selection of food on the table: beautiful untouched desserts, small plates, and drinks adorn the scene, waiting for consumption." by Maddy Keener