Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Margaret Keelan’s Dolls Look Like Weathered Wood But They’re Not
Margaret Keelan says her inclusion of a butterfly depicts her worry about the state of butterflies across the country.
Thursday, November 22, 2018


They resemble childlike dolls with torn dresses, chipped lips and scarred skin—something someone might have unwittingly discarded in a dumpster. 

But the faces on Margaret Keelan’s ceramic sculptures are thoughtful, their outstretched hands evocative, even enigmatic. And the birds that that they hold in their hands, the bunnies at their feet and the butterflies in the crooks of their arms hint at the rite of passage these nostalgic figures might be going through.

“We’ve represented Margaret for years and we’re always begging for more,” said gallery owner Gail Severn.

Margaret Keelan says the animals she includes as part of her sculptures offer a bit of magic.

Keelan’s work—at Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum-- is among the fine art that will be featured during the annual Giving Walk, also known as the Apres Ski Giving Walk, on Friday.

The special Gallery Walk will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23. Those taking part are encouraged to bring non-perishable food to deposit in donation boxes at each gallery. The food will be donated to The Hunger Coalition for its holiday food drive.

Keelan’s sculptures are made of clay. But she’s spent countless hours working to create the illusion of decaying wood and peeling paint.

She glazes, stains and fires her sculptures. Then she glazes, stains and fires them again to give the surfaces the look of disintegrating paint over weathered wood.

 “I love working with clay because it has so many possibilities,” said Keelan.  “I’ve spent my whole life finding new ways to work with it.”

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Keelan studied ceramics at the University of Saskatchewan before heading to Salt Lake City where she earned a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Utah with a focus on Ceramic Sculpture.

There she was inspired by Marilyn Levine’s ability to create realistic trompe-l’oeil ceramic objects, such as leather shoes, that exhibited the presence of the person who had originally worn the object.

“She made clay look like leather that had six decades scraped off of it with each decade representing  the life of person who lived in that object,” said Keelan, who has gone on to taught at a variety of art institutions, including San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Academy of Art. “As the outer layers fell away you could see the beauty of the inner layers.”

Keelan found her own expression in her sculptures incorporating doll heads made using molds of  19th and 20th century Victorian-era dolls. Keelan believes that borrowing from earlier styles gives her work an ageless quality, even as her work addresses contemporary themes.

Keelan hopes they serve as a springboard for personal reflection in viewers.

“Many of them serve as a metaphor for life being lived—my exploration of the process of growing up and growing older,” said Keelan, who has won numerous awards for her work. “My sculptures have always been self-referential, expressing concerns and experiences I live out in myself and observe in others around me.”



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