Ask me a Question: What is your story?

Photo by Jonathon Friedman

My name is Katarina Keen and I am from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I grew up on a farm, taking care of the horses, goats, and pigs. Getting up early in the morning to bail the hay and catch the bus. So at my very roots I was born a hippy southern soul. That farm dream didn't last forever though. The economy crashed, which forced my family and I to move to the city where I become a rebellion gothic girl. It was around Middle School that I wore chains down to my feet, a checkered hoodie year round, and was coated from head to toe in black. Walking in my own shadow. I even had a mullet for a time! I would sneak out every night, and play hackey sack in the streets. I'd skip school to smoke with my "homies," most of which were hurting or homeless.

These were not my most beautiful times. I was an outcast. I was bullied for being different. But when you start to befriend enough outcasts, you develop a safe place for people who just didn't quite fit in. We always looked out for eachother, and we still talk today.

It was my freshman year in High school that I met my best friend, Jasmine who pulled me out of my shadow, and helped me define my own identity. She said, “ Is this darkness really who you are? You are so positive and bright. Reflect that.” This changed me. It inspired me to embrace who I really am, though I really didn't know who that was. Whether it meant finding myself or creating myself, I started to explore my mind, and my fashion. Forming molds until one fit.

Later my Freshman year, I moved again, but this time to a quaint little village town near Grand Rapids area. I took a full circle turn with this clean slate. I would no longer feel sorry for myself. I wanted to try. I wanted to see what I was capable of. From this, I went from straight F's to straight A's. I got involved in the community, and received scholarships to get to through to college. I became part of a non-profit, and watched my life flip upside-down, from just the very action of dreaming, and doing. Of setting goals, and manifesting!

Throughout all of these ups and downs I always turned to art. From being bullied I would write poems about my pain, being alone I would sketch my surroundings. Both of my parents are incredible artists so I guess it’s in my jeans, as they say. They always accepted me, and at times I would push them away. I think it was the pain I felt in others that made me feel guilty for having it so good... so I made it hard on myself.. and them. Art has been my core since I can remember. Whether it be through acrylic paint, spray painting, stained glass, and sculpture it has always been my voice. My call to action. Today I turn what others might call "junk" into whimsical works of art. Maybe it goes back to my roots, of being alone, like junk, tossed aside, but then turned into something beautiful.

I didn’t know that I was beautiful enough to be a model though. Not until I saw an ad online to be a figure art model, and responded in an instant. It was that day in a college class room that I took all my clothes off, and held that pose, while being painted by a dozen artists. I traded my time to get free classes, to draw the other figures that would come in. The diversity of the models just astonished me. Of all ages, shapes and sizes. In particular, a very large woman came in one day. She was curvy, and so confident. I was so captivated by her body, and how much of a challenge it was to draw her. All the lines, shapes, and shadows, contoured her being. The raw human form. I became transfixed by the art of the nude, and from this class I gained an open awareness towards nudity, and a deep respect for the body.

Next thing you know, I am doing photography work, and traveling all around the country as a model and artist- Which is a whole other book in itself. I have been a professional model on the side for the last four years. I am a born entrepreneur. I am DRIVEN. I am a business owner, part of a Non-Profit for the arts, and I am currently enrolled in college with an interest in art and business, and web design. More self taught than anything though! As much as I love creating art, even more so, I like to help others explore their own creativity.

When I travel around the country on modeling tours I interview strangers, and make art with street artists, and homeless people, to get to know their roots, and hear their stories. Currently, I am working on website to document all of these experiences. I look at each and every person equally, and I see a part of myself inside of them. I feel them. It is like a force that draws me to want to connect with people, and get to know them, and help them, and I believe that through the arts I can do that. This energy guides me, and brings me to life. I know that from my experiences, and my story I can make a difference one step at a time. And If I can do it, anyone can do it. And you know what, if you think it’s so strange that I do nude modeling, that’s your problem :) I love my body, I love the forms I create with it, I love collaborating, and I LOVE MAKING ART WITH OTHERS. I love that I have guided my life to this moment with every single decision that I’ve made- whether they be right or wrong, I am who I am, and I FUCKING OWN it. You should to. Find what you love, and don’t let anyone stop you from doing it.

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