Keelan’s figurative sculptures confront issues of mortality, decay, beauty, aging and innocence. The faces are based on nineteenth century dolls, yet their contemporary styling and decayed surfaces disconnect them from time and place. What was once clean and crisp has given way to something more complex and textured. Set with snakes, hummingbirds, butterflies and strawberries, the figures hint at a narrative of natural and magical forces. Joanne Dickson wrote, “The work is rich with paradox. There is at once a feeling that these were treasured possessions, perhaps even ritual objects, at the same time they appear to have been created carelessly and discarded. The figures endure despite their apparent fragility.” Keelan is the Associate Director of the School of Sculpture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California where she also teaches ceramics.
Keelan’s sculpture confronts age and decay, focusing on a traditionally female perspective with her assumption of the doll — and the deeper psychological profile and momentary assumption (and subsequent loss) of youth embedded within it. ‘Top Dolly’ is a particularly gravity-defying piece, the doll seemingly having been spiked and sunken into a surface. The scuffed and scratched surface of the form alludes to wood, but is carefully realised and stained ceramic — the decaying texture simultaneously signalling a breaking down from user wear and significant passage of time. Semi-grotesque, the playful aspect is undercut with an unholy presence that can’t help but capitulate to notions of death.