Thursday, January 08, 2015

In Praise of Oisin Kelly

Oisin Kelly (1915-1981) has become something of a hero of mine
He put so much life into his sculptures -- and not just his own.

That distinguishes him from both the conceptualists and the self-expressionists,
 the two dominant varieties of contemporary art.

Apparently, he did not specialize as an animalier --
but look at that hawk he did!
He has captured its wild spirit.

Here's the piece that made him famous -  "The Children of Lir" in the national Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.

That mythic story  only tangentially relates to the centuries long struggle for Irish independence. The four children of Lir were magically transformed into swans by an evil step-mother - and it took 900 years before they were transformed back into humans.

Apparently, some people protested that the story was too pagan for a Christian country.  While I might note that the children all died as soon as they became human again, allowing mortality to catch up with them.  But I'd also have to note that many countries are predominantly Christian, while only Ireland has the tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann

With this piece, done at the age of 51,
Kelly was finally recognized as a sculptor,
Up to that point, he had worked as a school teacher.

He only made a few more monuments in the remaining 15 years of life.
 Above is a wonderfully expressive portrait of a pioneering labor union organizer.

He looks like a great man - but also like something of a goon and  blow-hard.

 So it's a conjunction of reality and idealism ---
making it feel both believable and important.

What could  be  more important than the depiction of a mythic bard?

Here's a monument to the  ordinary -- two working men gazing up into the sky with wonder.

God knows who commissioned it -- or why.

 But I sure wish my blue-collar suburb, Forest Park Illinois,   had this kind of public statuary.