Artist Gives 'Life' to Remains of Prehistoric Animals

By Houser, Mark | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 11, 2008 | Go to article overview

Artist Gives 'Life' to Remains of Prehistoric Animals


Houser, Mark, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


In a workshop in the hulking shell of the former Westinghouse Electric plant, Keny Marshall is busy rejuvenating mammoth relics of a much older sort.

Marshall is site manager of the Pittsburgh operations of Phil Fraley Productions, a New Jersey company that builds the fossilized skeletons of prehistoric creatures for museum exhibits throughout the country.

Trained as a metal sculptor with a master's degree in fine arts from Louisiana State University, Marshall never imagined he'd find himself in this line of work.

"I had no idea there even was a guy who puts dinosaurs together," said Marshall, 37, whose looks more artist than engineer with his wavy black hair and long Vandyke beard.

After working seven years designing and building mechanical exhibits at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Marshall took a job grinding, welding and hammering custom steel mounts for dinosaur bones at the Turtle Creek shop.

He spends most of his time planning jobs at the nine-person operation, supervising installations on site -- the firm rebuilt the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's dinosaur exhibit -- and figuring out the logistics of crating and moving the giant specimens.

Lately the workshop is focused on renovating a 10,000-year-old mastodon skeleton for the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

As reggae and jazz compete to drown out the hammers and power grinders in the metal frame shop, restorationists remove old wax and fiberglass once used to strengthen the fossilized bones. It's a sculpting and reconstruction job, too, because the original specimen was cut in half and mounted on a wall like a bas-relief. …

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