Growing up in a small community outside Anchorage, Alaska, in what she describes as “a semi-self-sufficient” household, Keetra Dean Dixon had a knack for drawing. But it wasn’t until she began selling custom portraits to raise money for a new snowboard as a teen that things really, well, snowballed. Fast forward a few years, and she was enrolled in graphic design program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Keetra loved the collaborative aspects of the medium and went on to get her MFA, but after graduation, she found her work shifting towards the interactive end of the spectrum. If you’re not sure what that means, she describes it this way: “I started making spatially located experiences that were—and still are—participatory. It’s about inviting the viewer to become a part of the narrative of a work.” Take, for instance, a recent project featuring human-size, geode-like layered wax sculptures, imprinted with simple words, that gallery visitors could reach out and touch. That work also provided the material for her current side project: making monolithic, candy-colored crayon sets. They started off as gifts for friends made from her wax scraps, but after she was inundated with requests, Keetra (now a RISD professor) decided to do more with them: “I want my work to be accessible outside of academic spaces for sure,” she explains. “It touches on these different histories and complicated subject matters, but the entry point can be crayons!”