David Keating
At the Graham Gallery, Albuquerque, NM


David Keating concerns himself with a body of work that grows directly from the roots of his emotional life. "I woke up one morning," he said, "feeling as if someone I loved was lying next to me, someone who doesn't exist." This intuition coupled with a chill he got some years ago: while sitting in San Francisco's Castro Theater he sensed that the seats were occupied by the ghosts of men who had died from AIDS. Then the artist came across this line in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth: "I feel as if someone I loved had died lately, (only) I don't want to remember who it could be." With these references in mind, haunting all the tenses, Keating built a memorial from wood and marble, with a revenant gallery of forty-eight roguish men whom he felt he could love, had he known them, and titled it "Beloved."

Even the lives of one's parents can be suited for art, not because you are the sounding of their genes, but because certain endemic emotions resonate from them, spreading out rings from the time when, for example, Keating read a folio of his mother's correspondence. The result was "Bride," which frames in a cathedral-like window enlarged copies of letters between his mother as a young novice nun and her mother, along with other relevant writings, and a central picture of Mother as a bride.

Is that your Soul/Dancing across the face of my Beloved?, she wrote in the convent. But she was destined to be a wife, mother, and university-trained theologian. Late in her marriage, she left her husband for a female lover; only to die from cancer, "exactly one month after the divorce papers were signed."

Ironically, with so much writing on the wall still more is needed; a leaflet, perhaps, to usher us through David Keating's "personal fiction" and "emotional truth."

(c) Joel Weishaus 1994