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Freaks of Art, Works of Nature

Animatronic sculptor Pat Keck speaks at SHA tonight

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The painted wooden figurines that comprise sculptor Pat Keck’s work are eerie enough at first glance: a pale, straitjacketed figure with an unruly shock of white hair teeters at the high end of a seesaw, and a bony, black-browed man in a top hat smirks as he clutches a cigarette between his teeth.

And then, they move.

The man with the cigarette releases a plume of white smoke from his mouth; an accompanist hunched over a keyboard plays back, note for note, the tunes visitors peck out on an adjacent piano. Keck says her animatronic creations are intended to simultaneously attract and repel viewers, and she draws inspiration from theatrical mediums such as performance art and rock ’n’ roll, as well as folk art associated with performance art, carnivals, and the circus. A retrospective of her work, Puppets, Ghosts, and Zombies, was exhibited at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass., in 2003.

Keck will give an illustrated lecture, titled Rocking and Rolling, Spinning and Smoking, tonight at 6 p.m. at the School of Hospitality Administration Auditorium, 928 Commonwealth Ave. The event, sponsored by Boston University’s NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship and the Core Curriculum, is free and open to the public.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.

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