The Gerard Manley Hopkins Society celebrate the life and work of sculptor James McKenna and his contribution to The Hopkins Festival since its inception in 1987. James McKenna's last Exhibition in July 2000, when he exhibited his magnificent Oisin Caught in a Time Warp, may well have been his most amazing, most nourishing.
James McKenna Sculptor
James McKenna's magnificent Gerard Manley Hopkins Monument in Kildare is a lasting monument to James - and to the enthusiasm of the Hopkins Committee at that time.
Patrick Murphy, Chairman,The Arts Council, had this to say of James McKenna at the time of his deatih in 2000.
'James McKenna was one of the most talented artists of his generation. Truly a renaissance man with a multiplicity of talents in sculpture, drawing, poetry, drama, music and languages, I had the honour of opening James's last exhibition at the Gerard Manley Hopkins Summer School in July. I will miss him as an artist and a friend. Ar dheis Dé; go raibh a anam dhílis'.
James McKenna was awarded The O'Connor Award to a standing ovation in 1996
'James McKenna was a genuine Renaissance man. A highly regarded
stone sculptor, he was also a noted dramatist, poet and occasional polemicist.'
James McKenna A Retrospective The Riverbank Arts Centre
''notoriously unworldly, he ploughed any money he made back into his work, surviving for long periods on a diet of bread and jam.' The Irish Times, October 14, 2000
'James McKenna continued to explore his theme of men victimised not through their own fault but by the uncaring world in which they lived. Each piece of sculpture is beautifully carved or chiselled, with loving attention. His figures have life in them; the faces, however, come as a surprise like the actors in his plays. They wear masks; frozen in their aloneness; poignant; serious; essentially tragic. Such is the McKenna perception.' -
Desmond Egan: James McKenna, A Celebration (The Goldsmith Press c. 2001).
'This has been our best year yet. The McKenna exhibition is a major highlight. He is our finest sculptor and his giant wooden horse sculpture will stun visitors.'
James McKenna was involved with the Gerard Manley Hopkins Festival from early days. Thanks to generous sponsors, the Society were able to commission James to create a splendid monument to Hopkins, an English poet who described Monasterevin as 'one ofthe struts and props' of his existence'.
The splendid monument, depicting depicting two figures also includes a lectern, used each year during the Hopkins International Summer School. The monument is located opposite the Cassidy home, where Hopkins stayed when in Monasterevin.
This Hopkins Monument is a proud landmark in Monasterevin and when in 2008, it was vandalized and even insensitively sand-blasted, ageing the monument overnight by about twenty years. There was huge concern about the future of this fine monument. Now, things to have settled down and it is to be hoped that the Monument can be left in Monasterevin.
Opened in 2000, The tree-filled Hopkins Garden leads down to the River Barrow, 'burling, brown' fittinlgy situated behind The Hopkins Monument. Each year, until 2001, a tree is planted to remember departed friends of the Hopkins Festival. In 2001, a fine oak tree was planted to commemorate James McKenna and in 2004, another commemorates Hugh Kenner's support of the Hopkins Festival over many years.
A 16 foot high Oisin on horseback, sculpted out of pine planks dowelled together: an immense undertaking which occupied James for much of five years.
In 2000, Oisin Caught in a Time Warp was installed in Arus Bride, the new administrative headquarters of County Kildare and is much admired by all visitors.