Young Art

It's hard being 20. It's that in-between age when it's legal to vote, but not to drink.

But for Keegan Rider, the hardest thing about being 20 isn't getting shut down by bouncers at bars. It's the challenge getting people to take him seriously as a studio artist, despite the fact that he can't legally talk art over a glass of wine at an opening.

"There are all kinds of problems with my age, like I always have after-parties at bars and things after my art shows, but I don't go," he says. "Most of the time, what I do is I tell people that I went, because everyone thinks I'm 21, and they'll go and have a good time ... and they think that I was actually there."

Rider, who has been making art since he was about 4, describes his pieces as displaying a lot of color and bold lines, and being heavy with symbolism; he's inspired by street art and pop art.

"With everything that I do, I'm trying to be really, intensely eccentric," he says. "It has to my own style, my own work, my own shows, my own ideas, and I want to produce things (so) that people could not possibly confuse my art with any other artist."

His work includes large, contemporary pieces constructed with mixed-media on wood board, as well as oil-on-canvas pieces that he says he likes to show in galleries or more upscale places.

The artist, who grew up in Vail, Ariz., says the symbols and themes in his work are heavily influenced by his personal life. The bunny ears in recent pieces represent mischief, and a cross-country series comes from his running track in high school.

Then there are the trees in previous works—detailed down to the last piece of bark.

"I dated this girl for, like, two years. (It was) this really intense relationship, and we wanted to get tattoos together," he says. "It came to the day we were supposed to get tattoos together, and we had broken up before that, (but) she ended up getting the tattoo that I drew for her still, and it was a tree. So, for over a year, I did, like, thousands of paintings of trees."

This personal connection with each figure, symbol and brushstroke offers insight into why the Keith Haring-loving artist paints at all—for personal meditation rather than fame and fortune (though he says the latter would be "awesome").

"I work on art anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day, no matter what—it doesn't matter what day of the week it is or anything, it's gotten to the point where it's like an addiction. I have to do art," he says.

While Rider has exhibited at places like the Parasol Project, the Dry River Collective and the Living Room for nearly three years, he says his age is still an issue when it comes to how he's perceived as an artist.

"Even now when I'm 20, it's hard to prove to people that I'm a legitimate artist—that I actually care, because a lot of times, people are like 35 to 40 and they're doing what I'm doing," he says. "No one's my age, really."

Rider feels strongly about the quality of his art.

"I am very confident in my art, and my abilities to be charismatic," he says. "I do stress about the number of people (who) come to my shows, but that's mostly in private. ... Once the show happens, there's nothing I can really do; it's like a train, and I can't stop it."

The next show featuring Rider's art is the Whata Café exhibit that he, along with artist Caleb Quin, put together at Café Luce. It will be on display from Sept. 3 through Oct. 1.

"The purpose of this show, for the most part, is to document my art and my ability to have a good show, so I'm having it filmed, photographed and audio-recorded," Rider explains.

"I am an adult. I am mature. ... I'm just going to keep painting for the rest of my life, and that's really just what I want to do," Rider says. "It would be amazing and awesome if I could become established enough to be called a 'working artist' and to sell work ... but I don't, like, hinge my whole existence on that."