Waterford artist Seamus Kelly makes art out of thousands of years old submerged wood and ancient animal specimens that he finds in wetlands. Taking his inspiration from the Irish bogs, his iconic art gives a modern twist to Irish history.
Kelly began work as a cabinet maker and later started making decorative wall hangings after a chance find. Kelly is a sportsman and he often hunted in the wetlands. Years ago he found a submerged piece of wood while waiting for a shot and he decided to turn his find into a piece of furniture. Since then Kelly has been transforming wetland finds into art.
There are no records on the prehistoric Irish landscape, which allows Kelly’s imagination great room and flexibility. Kellys gets inspiration from his specimens, but acquiring those materials for his pieces is a bit more difficult.
Kelly wades chest deep into bog mud to dig with spades and iron bars to obtain the materials for his sculptures. Kelly digs by intuition, which has served him well. He has found specimens in bogs in which archaeologists were unable to unearth bones.
Speaking to Forbes contributor David Monagan about one of his favorite bogs, Kelly said, “I found two different racks right here and one of them was nearly intact, all twelve feet of it.”
He keeps his materials in an old warehouse by an old family cottage. Unlike other artists’ studios, his materials include 7,000 year old bog oak, 3,500 year old yew, and bog elm specimens. His warehouse also boasts 13,000 spinal signatures now black of ancient Irish elk. European royalty used to place the antlers of these enormous creatures over their banquet halls and modern collectors value them as well. A perfectly preserved Irish great elk can fetch around $100,000.
Speaking about a giant deer, Kelly breathes new life into the long gone animal, “When they were full of blood they would weigh nearly a ton. Imagine the spine to support that! Imagine one of these fellows coming at you! And what killed them nobody knows.”
But even the ancient elks and deer are not the oldest specimens in Kelly’s warehouse. He has 15,000 year old tannin mummified heads of giant deer. He uses thousands of years old wood and bones along with ancient silver and gold.
From all of these materials Kelly creates works of art that show a majestic and powerful side of Irish history and that one would hardly have guessed were waiting in a bog.
To view Seamus Kelly’s art, visit his website.
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