By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
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By Allison Babka
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By Jake Rossen
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In 2006 Keaggy displayed his work at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) in an exhibit called Junk Science. The show included his sad chairs and grocery lists, as well as even more obscure collections such as his Rocks Shaped Like Shoes.
COCA gallery director Belinda Lee says Keaggy stands out for his ability to blend high-tech and low-tech media through the use of vintage cameras and antique light boxes that display some of his more modern images. But most refreshing, adds Lee, is Keaggy's unassuming nature.
"I work with a lot of artists," notes Lee. "Bill has this delightful quality to take his work seriously without taking himself too seriously. And I think that quality is definitely reflective in his work."
Still, the question can be asked: Are all of Keaggy's eccentric interests really must-see material?
Last October the Rev. Robert Shields of Dayton, Washington, passed away at the age of 89. From 1972 to 1997 Shields kept what is often considered the world's longest diary. Seated on the back porch of his home and surrounded by six I.B.M. electric typewriters (in case one broke), Shields recorded his life in five-minute intervals. Everything he thought, said or dreamed of entered its pages. So, too, did mention of his trips to the bathroom, the contents of his junk mail and temperature readings from inside his home. Nothing was too mundane to escape his diary.
Today, Shields is often cited as the poster boy for the condition known as hypergraphia, the compelling urge to write. The compulsion — the opposite of writer's block — is said to have afflicted better-known artists, including Vincent van Gogh and novelists Fyodor Dostoevsky and Lewis Carroll. Could Keaggy suffer a similar ailment?
"I hope not," opines Keaggy's wife. "Those people were all insane!"
Keaggy acknowledges that he's been accused of suffering some sort of obsession. He even has a disclaimer on his Web site to address the issue. It reads:
"This web site is a collection of visual indiscretions. It serves no purpose and despite what you may think, it does not waste a lot of my time — just yours."
"Sure it can appear that I'm OCD or plain old obsessive at times," reflects Keaggy. "But I've been doing this for a long time. It's not like I'm updating the site every day."
Keaggy has his own name for what he does. He calls it "publishmentalitarianism."
"In high school, my friend and I loved the word 'antiestablishmentarianism,'" he explains. "It seemed so made up. So when I needed a search term for my Web site I created the word 'publishmentalitarianism' as a way to describe my interest in publishing. In hindsight it was probably stupid idea. Not many people search that term."
It was also while in high school in the small northwestern Ohio town of Columbiana that Keaggy first fell in love with publishing. The romance was sparked at home as Keaggy recuperated from an accident with a pair of electric hedge clippers.
"We were cutting my grandma's lawn and doing some yard work when a pair of trimmers ripped through Bill's fingers and cut into the bone," recalls Keaggy's best friend growing up, Adam Liber. "At the time we were really into freestyle BMX and since Bill couldn't ride that summer, he got this idea to put together a zine dedicated to bikes and music."
They titled their crude publication ACC, an abbreviation of their favorite bike route though town, which they called the Atomic Circle of Chaos. Keaggy designed and wrote articles for the zine. Liber served as the photographer. Another friend wore the title of music editor.
The buddies laid out the magazine with scissors and glue, photocopied it and sold it at the local bike shop for $1 each or traded it with other BMX enthusiasts. Before long the Keaggy was mailing out copies of the publication to fans as far away as Germany.
"It was such a kick," says Keaggy. "We were at the center of this circle of people who were all into the same things. It's an incredible feeling knowing that you are partially responsible for something, instead of just consuming."
Keaggy would continue publishing ACC through his undergraduate days at Youngstown State and Ohio University, where he earned degrees in picture editing and page design. After college he and Liber moved to St. Louis to take jobs with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — Keaggy as a designer for the old Sunday magazine and Liber as art director for the "Get Out" section.
"I remember when Bill came in for the job interview," recounts former Post-Dispatch graphic designer Dave Gray. "He had this portfolio full of these Xeroxed magazines he'd created. You could just tell that for him design wasn't a job. It was his life."
Gray would later leave the Post-Dispatch to devote his full energies to his visual communications firm, Xplane, which helps corporations explain complex ideas and concepts through graphics. In 1999 Gray brought Keaggy aboard as the company's creative manager.
"One of the first things he did was launch our company blog," says Gray. "At the time, I didn't have any idea what a blog was, but Bill is one of the pioneers. He was one of the first people to blog and do it well."