By Annmarie Steffes
One of Ohio University's graduate students is making a name for herself nationally and internationally. As ceramics student Andrea Keys prepares to graduate on Friday, she also is starting to plan for her new role as teacher.
Keys, a third-year graduate student in ceramics, received both a tenure-track position beginning next fall and the honor of being named one of Ceramics Monthly's 16 emerging artists this year.
Keys matriculated to Ohio University's graduate program after completing her BFA in ceramics at the Maryland Institute of Art. She applied to many of the top schools in the field of ceramics but it was Ohio University that captured her heart.
"I kept coming back here to visit in my decision making and I loved it," she said. "The professors here are phenomenal. The community in the ceramics department is really supportive. It was one of those go-with-your-heart decisions."
Keys' art focuses on intergenerational trauma. She examines traumatic situations that pass through a collective unit such as a family and examines the psychological ramifications of such events. She specifically plays with visual indicators such as monuments and Hummel figurines.
"In a way I'm breaking down the facade of these images that we actually have and the idea that everything is hunky-dory," she said.
Keys supplements her art with extensive research into intergenerational trauma and Holocaust survivors. Keys' inspiration includes her grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor. Brad Schweiger, professor of ceramics and one of Keys' advisers, admires the research behind her pieces and considers that one of her most unique traits as an artist.
"I think what might be most interesting to me about Andrea are her ideas and how she directs and pursues her research," he said.
The past three years have honed her aesthetic. The ceramics program is based largely on critique from peers and faculty. As a result, this feedback has profoundly influenced Keys' art and helped her work to evolve. Schweiger noted that her craft has expanded its scope during her educational career.
"Andrea's work was very small scale when she arrived at OU," he says. "Her work addressed the history of Hummel figurines and while she still considers the Hummel as an important influence, her work has become much more monumental."
The editors at Ceramics Monthly, in recognizing her talent, urged its readers to keep an eye out for her and her work.
"It's a wonderful thing because Ceramics Monthly is an internationally publicized magazine and so a lot of people see it which is kind of my main impetus in wanting to get myself published coming out of graduate school," Keys said. "It's a good career move."
Keys will shift from working in her own studio to teaching in a classroom this fall as she begins a tenure-track position at Longwood University in Farmwood, Va.
Although excited for this new opportunity, Keys admitted she is "a little bit nervous" about the transition. However, she still plans to be an active artist and has scheduled her art to be shown in galleries across the country over the next year.
As her professional life drastically changes, Keys looks forward to the future of her art as well.
"I'm definitely excited for the work that will come after my thesis show," she said. "I'm not sure if it's necessarily a changing in terms of being completely different but it's an evolving for sure. And that's what is exciting about being an artist; each piece leads to another question. If you ever figure it out, you should just quit. If you can't think of more questions, you're done."