Windows & Remembrance on 9/11

Seemed appropriate to share my "Windows" series again today, September 11, since it's largely because of the events that day in 2001 that I ended up moving and traveling as much as I have. My family and I were evacuated from Pakistan several days after the attack, as there were concerns about the safety of American citizens. Although my dad was allowed to return for work, he couldn't take any dependents, so we ended up back in the States for a bit, until he took a job in Vietnam and we moved there. Tumultuous times that have shaped my experience and worldview.  

Someone told me recently that there was a cafe in one of the World Trade Center towers named "Windows Around the World" - something I didn't know when I proposed this theme, but which I think adds to it's richness. 

It's funny how even when I have the basic idea for a series I often don't really know what it's about until I've finished. Painting really is about process for me, so I work things out while I'm creating. So, below is the artist statement that I wrote a couple days after completing all the paintings for the show (up through Sept. 20 at Sanchez Art Center; gallery hours are 1-5PM on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays).

Artist Statement for "Windows - observations on place by an outsider" 
My fascination with WINDOWS began shortly after graduating from college when I was wandering around Oakland where I had my studio. I noticed that many of the windows had grills on them, similar to the safety systems in Pakistan and Vietnam where I grew up. At a time when I was questioning my future (as most recent college grads do) and trying to reconcile my past (as a Third Culture Kid), it was comforting to find familiarity in these windows.

At the same time, they reminded me that I was an OUTSIDER, something I'd been struggling with for years - usually whenever anyone asked me, "So where are you from?"  Windows became a symbol of the separation I felt from people who could answer this question without hesitation. Unlike a door that grants you access, windows create a barrier - always either looking in or out – through which you can see (or imagine) what you’re missing. 

The more I travelled, though, the more I came to see the similarities and differences of windows in different places as an opportunity for dialog. These paintings are hopeful because they show the beauty that I, as an outsider, recognize in what might seem commonplace to a local.

Each week I painted a different PLACE from my various travels since 2004. I was working from photographs I took, so I picked the places with the best reference photos and ended up with (rows, top to bottom): Pakistan, New Orleans, Italy, Austin, Jordan, Oakland, Finland and Guam (#50). 

I used a limited COLOR palette for all paintings of 5 colors (ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow medium, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light and burnt sienna) + white, but for each place I would remove one color (eg. use all colors except alizarin crimson for the Jordan week). The one exception was for painting 50 - I substituted hansa yellow light for cadmium yellow medium to create a more translucent green. I mixed the colors to emphasize the dominant color or feeling I had about each place. 

Read more about my process here. For PDF version of this statement click here

Opening Reception for 7th Annual 50|50 Show!

I had so much fun at the Opening Reception for the 7th Annual 50|50 Show at Sanchez Art Center last night! Thank you to everyone who came out to support the show - what a fantastic turnout to celebrate some amazing art.

Here are some photos from the Opening (or check out my Facebook album): 

Update on 50|50 Show: Hung and Ready for the Opening this Friday!

I hung my show at Sanchez Art Center today!

Rows (top to bottom): Pakistan, New Orleans, Italy, Austin, Jordan, Oakland, Finland and #50 Guam (on right-hand side). 

I also got to see most of the other participating artists' displays, and it is really impressive! A must-see show. Event details. Here's a list of the participating artists: 

Images from 6th Annual 50|50 Show. 

Update on 50|50 Project: Q&A

What? Why? Where? When? How?

Each row is a different place. From top to bottom, we have: Pakistan, New Orleans, Italy, Austin, Jordan, Oakland and Finland. The 50th panel on the right-hand side is Guam.

WHAT: A group show featuring over 60 artists each displaying 50 works of art that they created over 50 consecutive days around a theme. My theme is "Windows - observations on place by an outsider."

WHY have I hung it this way? I'm following instructions from the gallery; this is their 7th year doing this show, and they have it down. The 50th panel on the side will be accompanied by my bio, artist statement and title list. 

WHERE: Sanchez Art Center - 1220-B Linda Mar Blvd, Pacifica, CA 94044. 

WHEN: August 28-September 20. Opening reception on Aug. 28; details here. Regular gallery hours are Fri, Sat & Sun, 1-5PM. I will be sitting a gallery shift on Sept. 11 from 3-5PM. 

HOW did I get into this show? This is a juried show, which means that artists from all over submit 3 images in their chosen medium, plus a 10-word proposed theme for the project. The juror, Trish Bransten, Director of Rena Bransten Gallery, then chose 69 artists to participate. Apparently this year there were more applicants than ever before, so I am particularly honored to have been selected.

More questions? Interested in purchasing one? Contact me

Update on 50|50 Show: Week 7 + 1

Well folks, I did it! Monday was Day 50 of my 50|50 project, and I completed the final 8 paintings on time. Here's roughly what the final installation will look like (number 50 is on the right-hand side):

The installation will be displayed at Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica Aug 28-Sept 20 - more details coming soon! All paintings are for sale ($55 each, with 10% off if you buy 2 or more) - contact me if you're interested in pre-sales.

For Week 7, I painted scenes from Pakistan. I want to note that although I spent my first 14 years of life there, all of the source photos for this project are from 2 trips I took to Pakistan in 2004 and 2007. It's funny how when you live in a place, it's just home so you don't really document it in photos (at least, not before smart phones). But then when you go back to visit, suddenly everything looks different and you want to capture as much as possible with the camera lens. 

Week 7: Pakistan

Number 50 - Guam. This may seem random and in a way it is. But Guam was the last big trip I took before starting this project. I really wanted to include it even though I didn't get enough photos of windows to paint a full week of this location (it's a small place). Does the image seem familiar? Before starting this project I did a couple of test paintings in acrylics, and this was one of the images I used for that.

Confession: I couldn't get the luminosity in the green for the leaves that I wanted using cadmium yellow light with ultramarine blue. So for this final piece I broke out of my 5 color palette and traded the yellow for Hansa yellow light, which worked out much better:) 

Number 50: Guam

Update on 50|50 Show: Weeks 5 & 6

42 paintings done, 8 to go! If you've been following my 50|50 project, you'll know I've been doing a bit of catch up to make the July 27 deadline. So real quick, here's the latest installment - Finland (left) and Oakland (right):

Week 5 - Finland (left) and Week 6 - Oakland (right)

One of my brothers lives in Finland so I've been there several times. Always in the summer when it never gets truly dark, the sky is a stunning blue, and it's (nearly) warm enough to go swimming in the many lakes and/or the sea. We spend time in Helsinki, Laitila and surrounding areas. 

Week 5: Finland - Helsinki, Laitila and surrounding areas.

I moved to Oakland after graduating from university in Berkeley (the 2 towns border each other). It was a pretty formative time for me as it was the first time I wasn't in school, the first time living on my own and I had my first studio (in downtown).

Week 6: Oakland, CA

This is also when my fascination with windows began. Wandering around Oakland, I noticed that many of the windows had grills on them, similar to the safety systems in Pakistan and Vietnam where I grew up. At a time when I was questioning my future (as most recent college grads do) and trying to reconcile my past (as a global nomad), it was comforting to find something familiar in these windows. At the same time, they reminded me that I was an outsider, something I'd been struggling with for years (usually whenever anyone asked me, "So where are you from?").  At the time, I was caught up in the idea that one is always either looking in or out of a window, so there's always this barrier preventing one from joining in. Now, I think the fact that we can look through and see "the other" creates opportunities for dialog; but that's a different series. 


If you missed the last couple of weeks, you can catch up on my blog. You can see my progress on the final 8 via Instagram. These paintings will be on display at the Sanchez Art Center August 28 through September 20. More details here

Update on 50|50 Show: Weeks 3 & 4

I am over the hump - more than halfway through my 50|50 series of daily painting! The past two weeks I've enjoyed "traveling" to Austin, TX and Jordan:

Left to right: Austin, Jordan

I lived in Austin for one year in 2011-2012, and although you may think that some of the other places I've lived are more exotic, for me Austin was very different. I loved it! It's a very eclectic place with a warm climate, which means that people build interesting structures, some of which I've captures in these images (like the 3rd one down with the tire - that's from the Cathedral of Junk). 

For this set I took out cadmium red light and added back in my burnt sienna (along with ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow medium and alizarin crimson). 

Scenes from Austin, TX

I visited the country of Jordan for about 10 days in the spring of 2012. The cool thing about having parents who work all over the world (they are indeed true global nomads) is that I get to visit! I stayed in the capital, Amman, which is a crowded city built on rolling hills. We also traveled the countryside visiting ruins from Biblical times, went to the Dead Sea and visited one of the 7 Wonders of the World - Petra (this is where they filmed the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Petra is spectacular! Not only are the ruins impressively old and big (how did they build these structures without cranes?), but they are built into this lovely rock that has pink, yellow & purple strains of color. It's really fantastic. 

For these paintings, I took out my alizarin crimson and added back the cadmium red light, but as you can see I really muted down the colors to mostly browns and whites, with flashes of vibrant color. That's what it felt like when I was there, particularly in the springtime when these lovely red poppies dotted the mostly arid landscape. 

Scenes from Jordan: Amman, Petra and surrounding countryside.

You can follow my progress in real-time as I post my daily painting on Instagram

Update on 50|50 Show: Weeks 1 & 2

Wow, the last 2 weeks have been a blur of painting! I am learning so much from having the challenge of finishing a painting every day.


Each week I'm painting a different place from my various travels over the past couple of years. I'm using a limited color palette for all paintings of 5 colors (ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow medium, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light and burnt sienna) + white, but in different configurations for each place to emphasize a color or feeling I had about the place. 

Week 1 are from photos I took in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana), where I wanted to emphasize the pinkish color that popped up in a lot of my photos from there. 


Week 2 are from images I took in Italy (Florence and surrounding areas). To me, the Tuscan landscape has a yellow undertone, plus a lot of the buildings are painted yellow, so I wanted to emphasize that.


I took burnt sienna out of the mix for week 2, and enjoyed trying to mix all the colors I wanted from only 4 colors. As many artists will tell you, sometimes creating more limitations can actually lead to more inspiration and ultimately better work! 

Accepted to 7th Annual 50|50 Show!

As you may have heard via my newsletter or Instagram, I've been accepted into the 7th Annual 50|50 show! This is a juried show put on by the Sanchez Art Center. The challenge is to make one 6"x6" painting per day for 50 days (June 8-July 27) around a theme. All 50 paintings will be shown together, along with the other participating artists, from August 28-September 20 at the Center in Pacifica.

Stack of 50 panels for this challenge!

Stack of 50 panels for this challenge!

My theme (as stated for the application, in 10 words or less) is: Windows is about feeling like "the other."

To expand on this, I see windows as a symbol of always looking in or out (depending on which side of the glass you're on), a sort of barrier through you can see what you're missing, but not a door that will grant you access to that thing. I use the word "window" loosely - it could be anything that you can look through. I am using photos I've taken on my travels over the last couple of years as references for this project, including such places as New Orleans, Austin, Italy (mostly Florence and surrounding areas) and Guam. 

The project started on June 8, but before I could begin painting, I had to prime the panels with gesso so the oil paint doesn't seep through - 4 layers each, with some sanding in between for smoothness:

This is only about half the panels - starting to get intimidating! 

This is only about half the panels - starting to get intimidating! 

I will be posting daily photos to my Instagram account (under the hashtag #5050keena) and weekly updates to my blog (which I'll share to Facebook). Here's Day 1 (June 8) in case you missed it: 

Day 1 of 50

Day 1 of 50