3. Root of Loisaida
1985, 12’ x 9’8”
Having explored the idea of a root as a metaphor in his personal paintings and drawings, Keith saw his mural “as a way of symbolizing community and social activism. The root growing from underground portrays political action as an organic origin and essential source of making social change. I wanted Root of Loisaida to be a hopeful and specific symbol for the community, even though I portrayed the root’s limbs—containing names of community organizations—cut and severed to express a movement that was hurting, attacked, and tortured. Yet, the root would be a kind of angelic figure rising upward toward the collective mural’s crystal ball with its positive images, thus conveying a sense of being indomitable and growing in strength. Tony (Anthony Buszco) painted the background and texture patterns.”
Keith met Eva—who introduced him to “the methods, context, and politics of making murals in communities”—at a conference for activist artists in 1983. At the same time, he met muralists Judy Baca (SPARC) and Tim Rollins (Group Material). Keith belonged to PADD (Political Art Documentation/Distribution), serving as the art editor for the magazine Upfront and working with its editor Lucy Lippard. Participating in La Lucha’s early planning stages, he remembers “going to many meetings and many political and community discussions at the PADD office in the War Resisters League building.
“We muralists were idealists, open to friendships, committed to the struggle against the right wing political direction of the country and supportive of each other. We were aiming to develop a new history of activist art. We were acting on our beliefs that things could be better, that it took collective work to arrive at a hopeful future. We were against the Reagan administration and the problems of the times including apartheid, the U.S. intervention in Central America, what seemed like imminent nuclear destruction, and the gentrification of New York City neighborhoods, specifically Loisaida.”
Keith continues to be active as an artist and involved in social justice issues. Exhibition: National Public Art Biennial (Neuberger Museum). Commissions: permanent installation at the Minneapolis Government Center’s Light Rail Station and a labor history mural in St. Paul, MN. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at St. Cloud State University. kc.ampstudio.org