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Steve Keene Brings Truckload of Art

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Article by Emma Grosskopf

On Friday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m., the Olin Gallery was bustling with over 200 people who were there to admire the work of artists Steve Keene and Steve West in the gallery’s first big opening of the fall semester. Keene, originally from Virginia but currently residing in Brooklyn, was a featured artist at RC ten years ago, and this was the “Ten Years After!” showcase.

Called the “Assembly-Line Picasso” by Times magazine, Keene focuses on a simple yet colorful approach to his art, which currently covers almost every inch of the Olin Gallery.

“Steve Keene succeeded in turning the entire gallery into his work of art,” said Talia Logan, Olin Gallery director.

When over 200 people attend an opening, there are going to be over 200 reactions.

“Before a show starts, I’m always panicked and thinking that I’m stupid and that people see through my game, but then when I’m here, people are happy to be a part of the situation,” Keene said.

Keene’s artistic process involves replicating his painted images, most of which were painted on plywood panels. Keene called his work “indoor graffiti”, and his works are selling for $5 to $10 depending on the piece.

“I came to this opening specifically because it’s a little different. You can actually buy these pieces. Olin doesn’t usually do stuff like that, so that is pretty cool,” said senior Renee Spaar, who is an art and art history double major.

The artist featured alongside Keene was Steve West, former ‘90s indie-rock drummer from the band Pavement. His exhibition, Chickpea Power, was showcased in the Smoyer Gallery. West lives in Lexington currently, and this was his first time being featured at RC.

“I think it’s important to paint or make music about things that are around you in your life, whether it be the outdoors, the topography of the land, or what you’re hearing, or what you’re listening to, all of your influences,” West said.

Logan said that her goal for this year is to spread awareness of all of the events that are going to be happening at Olin in the near future.

“I feel like people don’t really know we exist,” Logan said.

Spaar also believes that Olin is underappreciated on the RC campus. “A lot of people don’t pay much attention to the art program here because it’s all in one spot. There aren’t really any pieces of art in any other areas of campus,” Spaar said.

Logan is attempting to get the whole community engaged, and one of the ways in which she is doing this is through the Paper Blooms Project, a collaborative effort that showcases hand-made paper flowers by hundreds of volunteers from the Roanoke-Salem area.

Keene and West’s art will be in Olin until Oct. 8, and the gallery is open from 1-4 during the week if students still would like to view and/or purchase the art.

The next event in Olin is Legacy: Highlights from the Roanoke College Permanent Collection. This exhibition, which runs from Oct. 27 until Dec. 3, will showcase artists such as Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Andrew Zuckerman, while Willie Baronet’s exhibit We Are All Homeless will be featured in the Smoyer Gallery.