If I was to pair Zoe Keller‘s work with any literary piece, it would be Virginia Woolf’s essay, Death of the Moth. Both women reflect on nature’s processes- the birth, the growth, the withering- through a lens so unassuming yet so profoundly earthly. Zoe does this visually, sparing celestial celebration and existential angst to present her audience with an observatory stance on life, showcasing flora and fauna in black and white realism. To add to the charm, the images are infused with keen symbolism; the careful subject pairings, and their actions and interactions speak volumes to the underlying web of flesh, fiber, scale and bone that connects us all.
Keller’s preference for ink and graphite is ideal for what she does. Fine line work and expansive range of shadow allow her to capture the subtlest intricacies of movement and physical peculiarities, making her work look fit for an offbeat science journal published by poets. She often opts out of including a background behind her subject, letting white space emphasize what needs to be said. Zoe has an entire palette of simulated textures, which are key in preventing the grey tones of most of her pieces from becoming convoluted and homogenous. Carrying an approachable, humanistic quality, her images belong in print and on walls, out conversing with the world they represent.
In terms of content, the theme that I find most striking in Zoe’s work is that of time- it’s capture, passing, and inevitability. It’s most evident in her rendering of the metamorphosis of a black racer snake, which, slipping through its shedding skin, passes over a skeleton. The bones of an ancestor, a parent, the creature itself- they are all the same; a single, eternal formula amplified by the overlap of the subjects depicted in the piece. Zoe, unlike most illustrators, does not freeze time in a single scene when she draws- instead, she immortalizes its effect, letting it weave throughout the bodies and beings in a given piece as it pleases.
Zoe Keller has a message for the world. You may hear it in the form of a warning, a question, or an uninhibited call for awareness. However you may perceive her work, it merits a step outside of yourself, just a few seconds to step back and look at the strange facts of your existence; your body, which will one day become the earth you came from, your mind, which is clouded much more often than nature intended it to be, and your inevitable similarity to all the life that lives beneath you. There is a balance there that is worth wondering about.
|| ZOE KELLER
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