Written by Natalie Jauregui-Ortiz.
A figure stands in a field, dressed in a scrambled assemblage of snakes. Twigs stick out, as the snakes cover nearly every part of the figure’s body, except for eyes and an orange hat with devilish horns that peek through an opening. The snakes have built a house around the body. Butterflies land on outer parts of the snake house. The artist Terra Keck describes that butterflies like to eat dead flesh, bringing forward the question of how the gentlest of creatures could also do such a gruesome act? Lower in the drawing, larger-than-life dandelion puffs and leaves of grass encompass the figure’s protected body, as dark trees almost sway in the background. The green ground moves in a psychedelic manner, almost dancing in the nest that the figure is nestled in.
Keck creates small, intimate works that center on the supernatural and hypernatural. She frequently uses the feminine body, “friends” as she refers to them, in Earthly environments and includes symbols to work through ideas, thoughts, and relationships around her. She uses concepts of infection, pussiness, acne, bubbling skin from burns – visual manifestations of visceral sentiments. Keck also uses snakes and citrus as motifs to symbolize sourness, in opposition with ideas of beauty – flowers, foliage, wallpaper, dresses. The beauty resembles perfume that serves to mask and cover up.
In another drawing, Keck creates an elongated figure with overwhelming bouquets of flowers burdening over the feminine figure’s shoulders. The person wears a long cape, revealing breasts with an unnatural, unidentifiable texture, above a midriff wrapped by the long body of a snake. Her legs are enveloped in boils and bandaged with more snakes. She wears a long pink skirt, centered in-between the unnatural, unnerving of the wrapping creatures. This drawing is unsettling at moments, with a realistic portrait looking down at her lengthy, unusual body.
Keck also creates charcoal drawings that exhibit movement, displeasure, and witchcraft. One drawing features a figure overthrown by logs, a difficulty with the weight of the kindling material. Another depicts a forest seance, with figures conjuring a pink spark that references a yonic form. These drawings take place at night, connecting the rituals and gatherings. The drawings give a folklore feeling. Stories are passed down by generations through these rituals. Folkloric stories teach us of histories, lessons, of unknown worlds.
Keck’s works are folkloric, divine, dark feminine narratives. Although drawn on a small scale, they are loaded with allegorical symbolism and intricate details that work to both allure and at moments, repulse the viewer. Her drawings are an invitation to the modern life of a witchy, feminine figure – one that hides, reveals, conjures, destroys, and creates.
About the writer: Natalie Jauregui-Ortiz is a visual artist and teaching artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She has exhibited at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Southern Exposure, The Greenpoint Gallery, The Sesnon Underground, and at Ground Floor Gallery. She has attended residencies at the New York Academy of Art and at arts letters and numbers. She holds a BA from the University of California – Santa Cruz. Her website is cargocollective.com/njo and her instagram is @natalie.njo.
About the artist: Terra Keck is a visual artist, writer, and podcast host based in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a MFA in studio art with a focus in printmaking and performance. She is a current studio member at TI Art Studios in Red Hook. Her website is TerraKeck.com, her Instagram is @herlovelyface, and her podcast Witch, Yes! can be found wherever you find podcasts.