photo by Rimas Zailskas
Keith Spencer is a Tryon NC artist. He has been in the area since 1992 and self employed as an artist since 2000. He grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and received degrees in Art and Biology from Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He has been described as “both an expressive painter and a true colorist” by William Kortlander, Professor of Art at Ohio State University. There is a boldness to his creativity and the works are full of life and energy. The result is a striking range of both figurative and landscape paintings that can be found in galleries and collections throughout the United States and Europe. His landscapes are frequently painted in the Alla Prima tradition (one sitting) and will often include the mountainous area where he now lives, as well as the American West. Having managed a cattle and horse farm, for the first twelve years of his career, Keith’s own horses are frequently found in his paintings. Keith paints in his own powerful voice, masterfully blurring the line between realism and pure abstraction.
"For me, painting is an unspoken interaction with the viewer. A kind of communication without words. Sometimes that is the very best kind". - Keith Spencer 2020
“Energy, especially that of color, is the most important element in Keith [Spencer’s] landscape and figure paintings that come to life with no formal studies other than a rudimentary midnight sketch using more notes than lines. Painting directly on canvas with broad strokes of oil produces softly realistic and semi-abstract works. Spencer’s beloved horses, the human figure and rural scenes of South Carolina’s upstate and low country vibrate with life and invite the viewer into a world of glowing color and gentle shapes. Spencer paints the radiant energy of his subjects rather than the details of line and form. Horses, cattle, groves of trees, rolling hills, salt marshes, and nudes all emit a life force that combines with that of Spencer [himself] to appear on the canvas in cool, vivid hues of purples, greens, yellows, and the myriad colors of nature."
Libby Fleming from “The Intuitive Painter”, Bold Life Magazine, August 2003
“If I could paint, I'd want to paint the way he does. I'm blown away by his work. Keith Spencer's sense of structure is impeccable. Nobody uses Cadmium Red to better advantage.His painting approach is fresh and energetic, but with substance.”
-Bernie Segal, Sculptor, retired Teacher of Art
“[Keith Spencer] ...is an exceptional painter...his work is very strong.”
Carl Blair, Owner Hampton III Gallery and one of South Carolina's most accomplished living artists
“I have collected the work of Keith Spencer for many years now, and I live with his paintings everyday. Keith’s work radiates from the walls of my house. It is no exaggeration to say that the best of his work possesses a profound energy that comes from a remarkably unique and intense palette and a deep connection with the subject matter, whether it’s the familiar landscape of the South Carolina horse farm where he lives and paints, or the nudes, portraits and Indians that seem to live even in abstraction. The earliest works I own of Keith’s are exact realism and could be mistaken for photographs in their precision. He has earned his way to the new and visionary work he creates that blurs the line between realism and pure abstraction. The discipline of his former life as a realist comes through the paint. His work is alive.”
Owen Riley, Photojournalist and art collector
“Free and confident. These words describe the work of Keith Spencer. His excellence in color-----his strength in brushwork....this draws you into his paintings----then you become fascinated by his interpretive landscapes and figurative work. His brush seems to dance on the canvas. I am sure his work will delight us for years to come. I look forward to “what next” from this talented artist.”
Ann Der Gara, painter and Owner Red Wolf Gallery, Brevard, NC
“Rythmic, strong brushwork is a prevalent force in Keith Spencer’s paintings. His images are built with and enhanced by richly loaded color. Many times hovering between realism and abstraction these images strike a note that is familiar with our visual understanding of nature, yet allows for a conceptual response as well. The painter frequently begins with a deeply toned background, that he allows to become part of the painting, and that contributes to strong feeling of unity. His paintings address the landscape or figure with an engaging freshness. While being grounded by excellent draftsmanship, he allows the work to be expressive and open to chance. This is not an easy line to walk and Spencer’s work balances these elements well. The result is that this artists paintings are unusually vibrant and inviting .”
Dale L. McEntire, past President, Board of Directors, Upstairs Gallery, Tryon, NC
“Keith's work really is very strong. He is both an expressive painter and a true colorist.”
William Kortlander, Professor of Art, Ohio Sate University
“Keith Spencer’s rich, luscious oils capture the light and depth of the southern landscape as few artists can. His realism is textural and thick, encouraging the viewer to enter the painting and become a part of his world. ”
Ginger Spangler, Co-Owner, Cleveland Springs Gallery, Shelby, NC
"To Keith at his 2005 solo show: “You don’t have the choice not to paint. You never really did."
Dr. Thomas J Mew III, Ph.D, Professor of Art, Director Moon Gallery
“As a gallery owner and professional artist myself, I have always had a great respect and admiration for the talent and vision of Keith Spencer. The base of knowledge upon which Keith builds his work shows a depth of understanding that is rare in contemporary artists. I feel that Keith's understanding of color, composition, and movement, allow him to create works that function on both a figurative and abstract level. If realism is about subject matter and abstracts are about paint, Keith’s work bridges the gap. That is one reason I have found his work to have such widespread appeal. The average viewer does not have to search for a connection to the work. The confidence and richness in Keith's paintings allows the viewer to simply trust in the beauty that the artist has communicated. I have had the pleasure of working with Keith Spencer for a number of years and have watched his work evolve. Throughout all of this process there has been a string of continuity that I call the artist voice. His work is still evolving and refining, as all true artist's work should. I look forward to seeing the path on which it will take us as the viewers.”
Richard Conn, Owner, Conn Gallery, Landrum, SC