Our Lady of Mt Carmel

Our Lady of Mt Carmel
Primary School, Sunbury

“From an exquisite piece of
Huon Pine, that took centuries to reach maturity before nature took
its toll and it fell to the forest floor,
we now see this beautiful statue before us today.”

Peter Hayes, Principal



About the Artist

Des McKenna O.A.M – Woodcarver & Sculptor
31 July 1930 – 26 December 2016

Des McKenna and his wife Carmel lived in Malmsbury in Central Victoria after spending more than 30 years living in the hills of Upper Beaconsfield in Victoria, Australia. There they had raised a family of eleven many of whom are practising artists. Carmel now lives in Pakenham. A food technologist by profession Des spent most of his "working life" in the food industry in managerial positions with one of the world's largest multinational food groups.

Opting for early retirement in 1986 he decided to take up woodworking as a hobby as in his early years he had made some of the furniture for the family home. It did not take long before his life-long love of nature and art and his developing skills led to his production of some remarkable works. The encouragement of his wife Carmel saw him present some sculpture to a local art gallery which was just opening and its acceptance and subsequent sales was the beginning of a remarkable new career. Des's work is now exhibited in
many galleries around Australia and in many overseas collections.

The timber Des used - fallen timber from the forest floor taken with a permit - was mostly River Red Gum and Black Box [Swamp Gum] collected from the Murray River area in North Western Victoria. Many of Des's smaller and medium sculptures were made from recycled timber such as old River Red Gum fence posts and house stumps. Des also had a fascination with Huon Pine which he used for his many religious sculptures .

Des was a member of the Victorian Woodworkers Association and regularly exhibited with them and other high quality woodwork exhibitions. Some of Des's major sculptural works on public view can be seen under "Commissions". In a very busy life Des alway found time for community work and for this was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1992.

Des really enjoyed his work and most days, even weekends if allowed, could be found in his studio producing some work of art. His sculptures have such a fine finish or patina that you will find it impossible not to caress them at every available opportunity. Indeed Des actively encouraged his clients to do so as he feels the experience is therapeutic for the "toucher" and good for the sculpture as it leaves on it small amounts of body oils.

Rather than produce sculpture with minute detail carved into it Des prefered his work to capture the essence of the subject and its natural rhythm and grace. He achieved this to such an extent that all his works seem to be moving and give great pleasure to those who are viewing them.

In his travels in the Australian bush Des was always on the lookout for that special piece of wood and had the imagination to see in a rough piece the ultimate possibilities which existed in it for his creativity.

Australian timbers have been subjected to much hardship in their harsh environment and therefore have in their structure many subsequent "faults" which Des enjoyed incorporating in his final creations which adds to their beauty, uniqueness and charm. Des believed that you should always be able to enjoy the feel of his timber finish and he ensured that the only thing between you and the timber surface is wax which protects the surface and enhances your enjoyment of it.

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