The well-kept city streets lined with trees and old brownstones may seem familiar in the paintings of Brooklyn-based artist Tom Keough, but the neighborhood is disquietingly empty. Keough situates the sidewalk in the immediate foreground of his paintings and compels the viewer to enter into an eerily vacant scene. With few exceptions, Keough leaves the always still and sometimes snowy New York setting largely unoccupied. Nonetheless, Keough conveys human presence in his paintings with the soft glow of lamplight from windows, footprints in the snow, and cars parked along the side. The theme of urban alienation—a paradoxical sense of loneliness felt in the midst of dense population and bustling activity—has been examined by Keough’s art-historical predecessors, such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and perhaps most consistently by Edward Hopper. Whereas these painters frequently employed various urban types (shop girls, entertainers, once clerks) lost in thought to evoke a sense of estrangement and inward reﬂection, Keough remarkably conveys similarly absorptive emotional states without such ﬁgural intervention. [excerpt]
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Egan, Shannon. (Winter 2008) Bright Lights on Quiet Streets: Tom Keough’s Nocturnes. The Gettysburg Review 20(4):583-592.
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Used with permission from The Gettysburg Review