Chain saw artist showcases talent at fair

CNJ staff photo: Gabe Monte Gary Keenan carves out a horeshoe from a walnut log. Keenan’s chain saw sculpting is one of the dozens of attractions at the Curry County Fair.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Gary and April Gober shared a bag of popcorn, fascinated by the wood chips and sawdust that flew through the damp early evening air.

In front of them, Gary Keenan attacked a log the size of a prize hog with chain saws. What emerged was a 4-foot tall eagle on pedestal.

“For a chain saw artist he’s very unique,” said Gary Gober, who said he has seen chain saw artists in Ruidoso but has only seen them make bears.

Keenan, a 50-year-old former locksmith from Des Moines, Iowa, is one of the dozens of attractions at the Curry County Fair, which started Monday.

The Gobers, who live east of Farwell, said they heard about Keenan’s act and came to the fair Monday to see him.

Keenan said he expects to make about 20 wooden sculptures during the fair. He said his work will be auctioned Saturday with the proceeds going to the county. He also carved sculptures of bears, a plaque depicting a log cabin in the woods and a horseshoe.

Keenan said although he hasn’t taken formal art classes he has always had a talent for drawing.

His first attempt at sculpting — his favorite art form — was when a friend asked him to use a chain saw to turn a log into a fish. He said the end product was crude but it was enough to get him hooked on chain saw sculpting.

“I love the creativity and working with my hands and being outside and the challenge (of making the subject fit the tree),” said Keenan, who has been carving with chain saws at various county fairs in the Midwest for six years.

He said Clovis is the farthest he’s gone to perform at a county fair.

“This is my first trip to New Mexico,” he told Doy Mick while he talked about a sculpture of two bears in a hollow tree stump.

Mick said the sound of Keenan’s chain saws piqued her curiosity and said she was amazed when she saw what he was doing.

“I’d love to see everything he’s made at the end of the fair,” she said.