Conceptual Sculptures Made of Bone
By Richard Malinsky, Arts Editor
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Keith Plummer is an innovative, self-taught sculptor living in Coastal Maine. Relying on unconventional and ancient techniques, he crafts his sculptures from bone, wood, and metal; and one of these highly conceptual works greets you on his homepage:
These conceptual works reflect the significance of bones as a metaphor for the human condition. “I believe birth is a pathway to eternity,” he declares in his artist statement. “Bones remain the sole witness of a mortal existence and provide a narrative of our earthly life. My work shows that death is not morbid, but simply the end of growth.” Within that context, he brings a voice and personality to each of his sculptures.
Bone carving appears in many civilizations and cultures around the world. Artworks depicting animals are typically associated with ceremony or ritual. More recently and best known is scrimshaw: Sailors carved decorative scenes in whalebone to pass the time away while at sea. However, Plummer takes this craft to another level conceptually with his analogies to human time on earth.
Plummer describes the twins in “Night and Day, The Dancing Twins” as “standing in the spotlight of human arrogance. They dance, carefree, appearing to cheat death.” It is visually interesting how the viewer admires their beauty while ignoring the decaying teeth. This piece is on view at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, NJ, until March 2017:
Recently, Plummer’s “Cat Mask” (also on view at Monmouth) was one of fifty pieces selected from 450 submissions for The South Shore Art Center’s Juried Show: Out of Order, juried by Nick Capasso, Director of the Fitchburg Art Museum:
While Plummer does include on his site a description of carving bone as intricate and fragile, I was left wishing there might be a page dedicated to the actual process. He mentions that he uses Dremels, dental tools, and bone saws, but other than that there is little to illustrate his materials and techniques in greater detail. Because his medium is so unusual and intriguing, more specifics would be of interest to his visitors—especially as the addition of metal work elevates the bone fragments to a whole new artistic level. An example is “Trumpeter.” Plummer says of this piece: “Let the truth ring true for all ears to hear in this shimmering dawn of a brand new year.”
Otherwise, these works are well worth spending some time on Plummer’s site. And beyond the rich selection of images, the site details Plummer’s extensive exhibition record in New York, Maine, and Massachusetts galleries. You can also see his work in this month’s WTP.
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