Visting Keith Mayerson in the studio
One thing I wanted to do before leaving New York City was visit Keith Mayerson’s studio and bother him long enough to tease more of his approaches to art making out of him. Since I started teaching at SVA in 2001, Keith has always been a welcoming mentor and friend. He is open to every student’s ideas, and like me, believes that the more people can access their inner lives and communicate them, the better the world will be. He believes, like I do, that art needn’t be political for art-making to be a political act. Teaching art-making, storytelling, and image creating is about granting “agency” (one of his favorite words; he has a few) to the student, and it’s about sharing emotional experiences and spiritual states, as much as it is about communicating ideas, if not more so. Keith has always been shy about sharing his cartoon work with his students, and though his extremely frequent gallery shows are public and attended by many students, you get the impression that he is shy about them too. All of this is funny to anyone who’s shared a school room with him because you know him to be not shy: he’ll go from joyfully pounding his fist on the table shouting “closure! closure!” to getting the room to (non-demoniationally) chant “om” to recounting long histories of art making from the Renaissance to Bugs Bunny and theorizing from Roland Barthes to Walt Disney. He’s not shy; he’s full of ideas, full of opinions, full of energy, and also grace, love and humanity.
But he’s also so all-welcoming that he can be hard to pin down.