James McKenna

Life
1933-2000; b. Dublin in June; 5 years study at College of Art; exhibited with Living Art, 1957; fndr. of Sculptors’ Inst., Independent Artists, with Noel Sheridan, Patrick McElroy, Patrick Pye, Elizabeth Rivers, et al., fnd. with others the Independent Artists; winner of Macaulay Fellowship in sculpture, 1960; wrote musical play, The Scatterin’, about emigration in the teddy boy era, composed in the vein of Behan’s The Hostage, and judged theatrical rather than dramatic (dir. Alan Simpson, Dublin Th. Fest. 1960, moving to London Theatre Royal, Stratford East; estab. the Rising Ground Drama Group which produced Citizen’s Tree; Ulster Lies Bleeding; Hotep Comes from the River and People without Fame, as well as At Bantry (Peacock 1967) , the 1916 Commemoration winner; later plays prize-winning play The Battering Ram (1976) and A Dance of Time (1979) remained unpublished; as a sculptor he undertook commissions incl. Female figure in granite (1977); Resurgence (Limerick Univ., 1979-1983), moved from Celbridge to Newbridge in the 1980s; showed annually at G. M. Hopkins Summer School, organised by his long-term friend and supporter Desmond Egan; a catalogue of his sculpture, drawings and theatre work was produced in 1985; d. 10 Oct. DIW DIL OCIL

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Works
At Bantry (Dublin: Sceptre [1968]); Poems (Curragh: Goldsmith 1973); The Scatterin’ (Curragh: Goldsmith 1977). Collected poems (Goldsmith Press 1974).

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Criticism
Desmond Egan, ed., James McKenna: A Celebration (Goldsmith Press 2002), 178pp. [contribs. incl. Ronnie Drew, Ulick O’Connor, Sam Stephenson, Dorothy Walker, Noel Sheridan, Pat Lonergan.]

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Commentary
Obituary notice (The Irish Times, 21 Oct. 2000): James McKenna, sculptor, playwright and poet; d. 10 Oct, 2000, aetat. 67; exhibited with Living Art, 1957; fndr. of Sculptors’ Inst., Independent Artists, with Noel Sheridan, Patrick McElroy, Patrick Pye, Elizabeth Rivers, et al.; also fndr. mbr. of Independent Artists; a play, The Scatterin’, about emigration in the teddy boy era; estab. Rising Ground Drama Group, produced Citizen’s Tree; Ulster Lies Bleeding; Hotep Comes from the River; People without Fame; At Bantry (Peacock). commissions incl. Female figure in granite, 1977; Resurgence, Limerick Univ., 1979-1983; notoriously unworldly; natural carver; enormous horses; moved from Celbridge to Newbridge in 1980s; showed annually at G. M. Hopkins Summer School, organised by long-term supporter and friend Desmond Egan; poems published by Goldsmith Press, 1974; The Scatterin’ (do. 1977); catalogue of sculpture, drawings and theatre work (1985); remained unmarried.

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