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ArtClimateHistory

#Duke Riley#plastic#scrimshaw#sculpture

In ‘The Repatriation of King Skellig Mör,’ Duke Riley Explores the Bizarre Relationship Between Nature and Institutional Power

May 31, 2024

Jackie Andres

a repurposed plastic jug with a man crying over a gravestone

All photos by Robert Bredvad, courtesy of Praise Shadows Art Gallery, shared with permission

The most famous goat in the history of Boston was named Skellig Mör. During the early 1900s, Skellig Mör’s name plastered headlines as an arduous legal battle for his custody ensued. The famed goat was born in Killorglin, a town in County Kerry, Ireland. Prior to being bought by Americans and taken overseas to Boston, Skellig Mör was dubbed king in the annual Puck Fair, one of Ireland’s oldest traditions in which a group of individuals trek up a mountain range, catch one of the horned mammals, and crown the chosen one ‘King Puck.’ A king and symbolic entity, Skellig Mör’s absence caused tensions to rise, taking matters of ownership to the courts.

Eventually, ruling decided that Skellig Mör would stay in U.S. custody, and he lived the rest of his days aboard a battleship called the USS Vermont. The goat’s unfortunate death came the same year he was given to the American sailing crew, sparking news coverage once more that revealed the goat’s body was ultimately stuffed and displayed in a Boston museum. In Duke Riley’s newest solo exhibition titled The Repatriation of King Skellig

a repurposed cassette is painted beige and carved into, emulating traditional scrimshaw art. it says, "no more mister nice guy"

Cultivating his ongoing fascination with history and folklore coupled with cultural impact and environmental destruction, Riley creates visual layers to tell a re-imagined story. Following suit with his previous work, the artist repurposes bottles and containers from mundane household products. By painting and carving into these materials, Riley completely transforms domestic supplies into seemingly archival relics bearing the undertones of both historical and contemporary narratives.

The Repatriation of King Skellig

Visit the show at Praise Shadows Art Gallery through June 30, and find more work on Riley’s Instagram and website.

detail of found trash arranged into a colorful octogonal mosaic

a repurposed cassette is painted beige and carved into, emulating traditional scrimshaw art. it says, "there's a place i'd like to be there's a place i'd like to be."

a repurposed bottle from a household product is painted beige and carved into, emulating traditional scrimshaw art

repurposed containers and bottles from household products are painted red and carved into

repurposed cassettes are painted beige and carved into, emulating traditional scrimshaw art

repurposed containers and bottles from household products are painted beige and carved into, emulating traditional scrimshaw art

a woman in a red dress stands next to two wall pieces in a gallery

Photo by Dan Watkins Photography, courtesy of Praise Shadows Art Gallery, shared with permission

#Duke Riley#plastic#scrimshaw#sculpture

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