Margaret Keelan’s ceramic sculptures are glazed, stained, fired, then glazed, stained and fired again to give the surfaces the look of disintegrating, painted over weathered wood. She explains, “This softening and reduction of form so that its essential nature is revealed is a metaphor I am using for life being lived, my exploration of the process of growing up and growing older.”
Keelan’s figurative sculptures confront issues of mortality, decay, beauty, aging and innocence. In her article Margaret Keelan’s Intimate and Universal Stories, Cheryl Coon describes how, “The skin-like malleability of the clay has been stained and manipulated to show all the scars and scratches and gouges. The sculptures appear to have been excavated, but not restored to any previous state of pristine beauty. They reveal their raw, exposed and broken selves.”
The labor-intensive process that goes into the creation of the work is itself a ritual of transformation. Many of the figures hold a smaller character or animal. The interpretation of this is left deliberately ambiguous -- another doll, a child, a pet, or another version of the self? The artist’s focus on the boundaries between the adult and the child and self-reflection draws on dreams, spirituality and an emotional passion.
Margaret Keelan is the Associate Director of the School of Sculpture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she also teaches ceramics. She received an Advanced B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada and an M.F.A. in ceramic sculpture from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Her work has been featured in numerous books including Lark Books, 500 Figures in Clay, Volumes 1 and 2, Ceramics and the Human Figure by Edith Garcia, The Craft and Art of Clay, Contemporary Ceramics and Working With Clay by Susan Peterson.