Elsa Marie Keefe, now a New York based artist, grew up on the North Shore, in Manchester-by-the-Sea. But she didn’t grow up the way most North Shore kids do.
“I actually didn’t grow up with a TV,” says Keefe, describing her family as “evolved hippie.” “My mom would always give me art materials when I was a young child to pass the time, so I’ve been doing art my whole life.”
Keefe will exhibit her newest series of mixed media work this Saturday, September 19 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 8 Victoria Road in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Though art has always been her therapy, she didn’t consider it seriously as a career until later in college. Photography, which she had dabbled in as a hobby, became her focus as she fell into the fine art photography program at Elon University, which she graduated from in 2013. “It took off from there very naturally. I started getting scholarships and I started making sales and one thing led to another,” explains Keefe. “I started making money doing what I love.”
Keefe’s work focuses on nude human bodies in nature, exploring the human body as an element of nature rather than its antithesis. Her subjects appear to meld into the landscape around them, exemplifying transcendence—we’re all a part of mother nature. She takes her photographs in places void of manmade objects; “I like to create images that could’ve been taken thousands of years ago,” she explains.
She also works in the mixed media realm, collecting nature made objects like leaves, bones, and shells, and setting them on a canvas with resin. Her upcoming series combines this technique with photography, resulting in large-scale mixed media pieces.
“Everything I do has a photographic base, with the subject being a nude human body in nature,” says Keefe. “I paste the photographic canvas onto the wood, so it has a sturdy base, and then I layer on found objects, like flowers, leaves, crystals, bones, different things that I collect in nature,” she says, “with some paint.” Only one work at the upcoming show, called See/Sea [pictured beside], is just mixed media, no photography, combining seaside found objects like scallop shells and sea urchins, many of which she’s picked up on her walks near her family’s seaside Manchester home.
When the pandemic hit back in the spring, Keefe headed home to her parents’ house for a stint when the world (especially the New York art world) ground to a halt. She began working on a new series to pass the time—”I ended up putting together five times as many pieces as I’d normally be able to do in this timeframe,” she says, “so I had more than a full series of my work ready to go.”
But the galleries were all still closed. That’s when her dad suggested she present the work as a semi-official, socially distanced preview in the yard of their home in Manchester. Though she’s shown her work all over the country, exhibiting in places from Brooklyn to California and from Miami to Colorado, this show will be her first official introduction to the North Shore art scene.
All pieces shown on Saturday will be available for purchase. To take a look at and to purchase some of her past works, check out her Saatchi Art account and book,delirium, published by Glitterati. To learn more about who Elsa is and what she does, head to elsamariekeefe.com.
Born Wild Art Show
Saturday, September 19
4:00 – 8:00 p.m.
8 Victoria Road, Manchester-by-the-Sea