2020 Emerging Artist: Lily Keller
Like her paintings, Lily Keller radiates joy and tranquility. A Vineyard resident, environmentalist and sailor, Keller’s art portrays the island landscapes she loves. “An uplifting, calm energy is what I try to channel into my paintings. I paint places that I love: the peacefulness of the island, and these beautiful spots where you’re looking toward the horizon or around the next bend of the road,” she describes. Her art’s semi-abstract nature gives viewers a new perspective on their favorite landscapes, emphasizing the colors that intertwine to make these spots so picturesque.
Keller lived on her sailboat for five years, spending ample time on a mooring in Edgartown’s Katama Bay. With three young sons, the oldest beginning kindergarten, she decided it was time to settle on land. “We had this epiphany hanging out on the boat one evening to settle on the Vineyard. It was very spontaneous,” Keller notes. Since that decision last year, she has dedicated herself to oil painting and expanded her artistic career.
Art has always spoken to her soul. After graduating from Bowdoin College in studio art and working with refugees, she found herself living on the water and dreaming of painting. “Through those years on the boat, I started to dream that I was painting again. Two years ago, we were at our one-room cabin in Maine and I cleared off one corner of the table to paint. I was just compelled to do it. I have painted nearly every day since,” Keller recalls. Now on the Vineyard, she paints in her home studio surrounded by her oil collection.
As a passionate environmentalist, the quality of her paint matters greatly. While she loves the fluidity of oil on canvas, its natural ingredients are key. “It is really just pigment and linseed oil. I sometimes make my own pigment by grinding down the dry pigment and adding oil. I make a really cool grey with acorn caps and rusted nails,” she notes. “I try to infuse my work with the spirit or energy of a place, and when I use paint that is all natural and from the earth, it helps connect it, in my mind, to the beautiful places I am painting. That’s another reason I have been working with the handmade paint, I try to add even a little bit to each painting, so that it really is ‘of’ Martha’s Vineyard, or Maine, or wherever it is I am painting.”
One of Keller’s main goals for 2020 was to begin painting murals. Two large wall murals behind the mini-golf course in Vineyard Haven are currently in the works, expected to be complete by mid-summer. Her art is featured in Design Works in Yarmouth Port, Elburne in Dennis and Hanover, and SALTE in Edgartown. Online, she is highlighted in Collective 131’s online art gallery and her Instagram page, @lilykelart. With a love for nature and an itch to continue painting, Lily Keller’s art is sure to continue capturing the magic of New England seascapes. – Brenna Collins