Interview with Keto Green on “Against It All,” Solo Exhibition Opening on May 20th

Interview with Keto Green on “Against It All,” Solo Exhibition Opening on May 20th

Keto Green is a contemporary artist from Detroit, Michigan and an 2022 Emerging Artist Fellow. He creates artwork from found objects, including painted doors that represent his personal struggle and relationship with hardships such as evictions and oppressive poverty conditions. His series of paintings feature various portraits and faces, created on various objects such as found doors, windows, plywood, canvases and handcrafted furniture to highlight the differences in one another and bring to light the beauty he sees in life, despite ongoing challenges he faces.

His unique perspective seeks to showcase different minds to bring forth his shared reality, through the lens of love. All of his work is created with his whole soul and heart, each representing a time and place in each other’s lives that can share emotions ranging from struggle and sadness, to love and happiness. He attended Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan and has participated in programs at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Inside Out and has received recognition from Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right Foundation.” 

Keto Green working in his studio. Image credit: Michael Christie Photography

When did you know you were an artist?

When I was in third grade, I got a ten dollar check from my elementary school that made me feel like art is my true passion. I knew I was an artist when I used whatever I had to create things that I didn’t know I wanted to create, pushing me to embrace creativity on another level.

Art gives me an out-of-world experience while being on Earth. Art is a part of my life because it’s a tool I use to overcome traumatic living conditions and experiences. I confide in my art as I grow in life. 

What concept or medium are you most interested in?

I am interested in the concept of unity. Using whatever you have to create whatever you feel is key. I was raised in a broken household, everybody seemed to fend for themself. It gave me a survival look on life. Since it was difficult to actually fix a person, I decided to use symbolism instead.

I use found objects that have been abandoned and reconstructing them to embrace natural beauty and balance. Unity is key no matter what. Self love is key. I like to use this method of making because it pushes me to think outside of the box and not let things that I cannot control traumatize me. 

Keto Green in his studio. Image credit: Michael Christie Photography

What is it about using bold or contrasting color is of most interest to you?

Color speaks volumes. For me, bold colors have tones in them that give a setting for the art, they tend to set a tone for a masterpiece. I decide to use warm colors versus cool colors to start the initial feeling. After I figure out the color theme I use complimentary colors to magnify the art.

The biggest challenge in using bold colors is having the right balance. Not having too many colors that overpower the other colors is important to balance the colors so the overall configuration works. 

Detail view of artwork by Keto Green. Image credit: Michael Christie Photography

How does your process begin, and how long do your large canvases take to create?

My process begins with assemblage of found objects collected in a box. After I have my material, I prime the design with an opposite background color. I use light tones to do the outline and start using colors to compliment every color on the masterpiece. After layers of different colors, I then start creating a depth in the art by adding more found objects to align the main focus in the masterpiece, to create balanced depth. My large canvases usually take 3-5 days to complete. I aim for completing art pieces as soon as I can the ideal because I want to get the feeling I’ve created documented in a timely manner. 

What inspires you?

Life inspires me. To be able to use what I have to make a positive impact in the world is key. Self love is key in a world so full of drive and talent.

Unity inspires me. To use whatever I can find and beautify the objects is amazing. Fixing the broken pieces pushes me to help more and more people. It’s symbolic to let people know they are not alone and they are great. Art inspires me to create generational wealth showing the drive and dedication teach and have been taught since centuries ago intrigues me.

Has the concept or theme that your work revolves around evolved over time?

Yes, the concept behind my work revolves and has evolved over time. When I started painting, I used to paint small objects and things because I didn’t have a lot of material. As I got older and my father came up missing, and my youngest brother committed suicide, I started to use many more things. From cardboard to doors to windows to pieces of assembly wood. Now, I assemble things using scraps and broken object to symbolize unity in a creative way. 

Do you have a favorite technique? 

My favorite thing to do is something I have never done before in my art-making. I never like to know what I’m going to create. I usually close my eyes when creating and never think about judging myself while painting.

What is meant to be will be meant to be. 

Keto Green in his studio. Image credit: Michael Christie Photography

What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?

Assemblage has helped me to be most successful by using broken found objects. By doing so, it has given me an edge to create things of the unknowing. It gives me more insight about myself, working with what I feel in my heart and want to do with my mind without trying to judge myself or be like anybody else. It’s made me so successful because I can find trash and create treasure. I love you- I can use it while broken and fix it. I can re-construct my future and I feel that people in life can also do the same. My style gives me more symbolism to embrace my current change in mindset. 

What inspired the concept behind the show you are installing?

Togetherness has inspired me for “Against It All.” I have been raised in a broken household and did not know how to get out of it but kept believing in my talent and having faith in God. From that, I started to use objects like doors, windows, and things that sort to give me a background of strength in order to go through the change in transition appoint. I guess it all is what I have been.

I’m doing going against the negative and the brainwashed things in the neighborhood. Giving people idea that they matter and no matter if someone endured struggle, and that there are also different ways to live a beautiful lifestyle. 

If I can’t fix the world, maybe I can create things with broken pieces and United colors to help change the world. 

Keto Green
Artwork in Keto’s studio. Image credit: Michael Christie Photography

What are you working on and looking forward to in the near future?

I am currently working on masterful installation assemblage projects. I am looking to become an international, well-known contemporary artist. 

I aim to mentor and uplift community through change and drive. I also aim to work on unity and self love. To be able to talk to those who have indoor struggle, pain, sadness, and confusion while growing up a life. Giving people hope is keys to me. I would love to do that and have more productive way so people will know that they are worthy and they are cared about. 

How long have you lived in Detroit?

I have lived in Detroit my whole life. I am 33 years old. I was born at Hutzel hospital in Detroit. I went to so many different schools from white elementary to Sampson elementary into Cass tech high school and Northwestern High School. I even went to Lawrence Tech University and Wayne County Community College.

Detroit, Michigan is my peace of mind, place, no matter the difficult time. I’m dedicated to making positive change. 

Universal Love, Keto Green

How does living in Detroit influence your work?

Living in Detroit has an influence on my work, subject matter, style and approach because it gives me an edge. Detroit has been abandoned, broke-down and reconstructed for so many years now, and I had to grow up in that environment. Not knowing what I was going to be when I was younger, or even knowing if I was going to be alive, gave me a question for everything. I had to start realizing that my environment will not be the key to my downfall, and that I will go beyond the measures in order to create a successful lifestyle in the future for myself and my family.

So I started using found objects because a lot of things are broken and abandoned in Detroit. It’s realizing that just because you’ve been broken doesn’t mean that you only have the capacity to keep living the lifestyle- that you are worthy of better. So I started using whatever I had around me in order to change that mental state of not knowing and frustration.

Detroit gives me the drive, determination, strength, and guidance in order to build myself and learn from past trauma. Using found objects has given me a perspective that unity is the number one thing. So I will paint things with bright colors and symbolism to unite us all. 

I’ve stayed in many abandoned homes and have felt abandoned areas also have a story, and why not express the story of the lost.

Perseverance, Keto Green

Anything you would like to add?

Art is a gifted tool that God has given me to help people find self love on this physical land. My story is Not what art has done to keep me alive. My story is to strengthen; never give up, embrace change and have faith even in the midst of destruction. 

I aim for inner change. Self love is the key to success regardless the poverty and oppressive living conditions one has endured. 

Keto Green

Join us for the Opening Reception of “Against It All,” Keto Green’s Solo Exhibition on Saturday, May 20th from 6-9pm. Exhibition will be on view from May 20th through June 17th.

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