The Hippo


Jun 6, 2020








Ali Keller art, Plankton Plastic. Courtesy photo.

“Figuratively Speaking” 

Where: Kimball Jenkins’ Carriage House galleries, 266 N. Main St., Concord
When: On view now through March 15. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, Feb. 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 
More info:, 225-3932

Beyond landscapes
Established and emerging abstract artists in exhibit

By Angie Sykeny

 For abstract artists like Ali Keller of Merrimack, finding a venue to showcase their work is an uphill battle. 

“A lot of the New England gallery scene is geared toward landscapes and realism and traditional paintings,” she said, “which is great that there’s a market and demand for that, but it makes it harder for abstract artists to find shows to be involved in or places to show their work at all.” 
Mike Howat, an artist and instructor at Kimball Jenkins School of Art in Concord, has noticed the struggle as well. Though he himself does not do abstract art, he has many friends who do and was discouraged to see a lack of opportunities for them to exhibit. That’s why he’s curating “Figuratively Speaking,” an abstract art exhibition featuring established and emerging artists, on view now through March 15 at Kimball Jenkins. 
“A lot of abstract artists in New Hampshire do amazing work but are viewed as inaccessible and haven’t been picked up by a gallery,” Howat said. “I wanted to ditch the notions of what art should look like and what will sell and focus on what a piece does for you and your response to it.” 
Eleven regional artists, including Keller, will be featured in the exhibit. Some have exhibited extensively while others will be making their commercial gallery debut. Some of their work includes photograms, textured enamel paintings, abstract kaleidoscopic landscapes and minimalistic, geometric and impressionistic abstract styles, as well as pieces inspired by jazz music, memory, body image and more. 
“There is a huge variety when it comes to abstract art, and that is the critical point that I wanted to make,” Howat said. “Abstract can be intimidating for some people, but if they see the variety, it becomes more accessible because they can find their niche.” 
Keller graduated from the New Hampshire Institute of Art and has been painting professionally for five years. Though she’s done a fair amount of representational art, she found her passion with abstract art. 
“I have a lot of fun with it,” she said. “There’s certainly a joy to replicating what you see and painting from life, but for me, it’s more about the colors and the way they look next to each other and the process of discovering that.” 
Keller uses primarily oil paint but also incorporates some drawing and writing into her paintings. For colors, she gravitates toward blues and grays, she said, likely because of her love for the ocean. The shapes and patterns she paints are inspired by nature and landscapes, music, personal experiences and “things that take up a lot of space in my mind,” she said. 
Most recently, her work has represented her feelings about environmental issues, particularly the large amount of plastic in the ocean. 
“I’ve read about it and watched documentaries about it, and it really worked me up and made me upset,” she said. “Painting about it helps me deal with that.” 
Part of Howat’s mission with “Figuratively Speaking,” he said, is to challenge the stereotype of abstract art as being only for “haughty and lofty New York City galleries with Champagne.”
“There’s a wide open world of abstract art,” he said. “My ultimate goal is for someone who is biased against abstract art and usually dismisses it to see that it’s not what they thought, and to find something in the exhibit that they may have dismissed previously and get lost in it.” 

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