believe in God. That’s all I have to believe in. And how we got here,
that’s his makings,” Detrich says. “Why don’t we
believe in God first and talk about how he did it later?"
.............................. ~ Alan Detrich
...spreading the word about Jesus through art
Jesus is lying on a slab of stone, holes through his hands, resting peacefully before his resurrection.
It’s a familiar scene for Christians everywhere — until one sees the curled-up dinosaur at his feet.
One part artist’s interpretation, one part historical matter, this 6-foot-4 Jesus is something else, and not just because he’s got a friendly, gold-eyed mosasaur skeleton resting with him. Jesus’ body is made, its creator Alan Detrich says, of Tyrannosaurus rex fossil fragments.
“No one has ever taken something that is 65 billion years old and made religious icons out of it,” says Detrich, a local artist with a studio near Overbrook. “It’s something really new. It’s something I don’t believe anybody is really doing.”
The work, titled “Resurrection,” is scheduled to be on display at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York, fittingly, at Easter time.
But for those interested in seeing religious artwork made of dinosaur bone closer to home, some of Detrich’s other works went on display Friday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., and will be there until Feb. 28.
Dinosaur-bone religious sculptures at a municipal building may seem like an odd fit, but Detrich believes his display can bring attention to a need for private donations to build a new public library.
“If we can generate some interest with the children, then it’ll trickle down to the people that understand how important a library is in the community,” says Detrich, who plans to give away bone fragments in conjunction with the show. “I hope some people would come forward and rather than the taxpayer having to pick up the pieces all the time and build things, maybe some private entrepreneurs and business people would like to involved in this project to build a new library.”
But he also wouldn’t mind if the display of his pieces also brings some library-goers into a conversation with God. Detrich is a deeply religious man who thinks that without belief in a creator, nonbelievers have nothing to live for.
“If people say we’re bringing God into a public arena, I think that’s a good thing. I’d think he’d like that,” he says. “But, more than anything else, I think it’s going to (get people to) ask more questions about our origins rather than answering to a lot of people who are nonbelievers. They might just accidentally come to the conclusion that life would be better if they believed in a super being, in a creator, rather than life would be better if your actions didn’t matter.”
work, titled “Resurrection,”
fossil hunter spurs evolution debate with art
Kansas City Star and many other newspapers across the country
October 11, 2006
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Alan Detrich is gluing together hundreds of pebble-sized pieces of fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops bones to create a sculpture of Jesus lying in his tomb.
Another of Detrich's sculptures features a fossilized T. rex tooth.
He believes dinosaurs were among God's first creations and that their remains are the ideal artistic medium with which to get people talking about evolution, a theory he considers implausible.
"I'm doing something no one else can do, and I think I can find a market for it," he said. "No one else is making religious icons out of dinosaur bones. The only way I can fail is if I quit trying."
Detrich, a mostly retired fossil hunter who has a master's degree in fine arts from Wichita State University, thinks his unusual background led him to this point.
As a fossil hunter, his claim to fame is a nearly complete T. rex that he and his brother, Robert, came across in 1992 in South Dakota. Detrich said the remnants of the meat eater, dubbed Samson, are worth millions but won't reveal their exact worth because he signed a nondisclosure agreement with the buyer, British corporate raider Graham Ferguson Lacey.
Its skull is "among the best if not the best of any T. rex ever found," said Matt Lamanna, assistant curator for vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, which cleaned and studied it.
Neither Detrich nor his brother are trained paleontologists. Their interest was sparked by their father, an oil explorer, who brought home core samples filled with fossils to show his sons.
"So I've always been exposed to the earth and the abundance of fossil here," Detrich said during a recent interview at a coffee shop near the University of Kansas, where he took classes last year in paleontology and art, casting more than $100,000 in gold to include in his sculptures.
He lives in a Best Western hotel, despite several lucrative discoveries - Samson among them - that generated enough publicity to land him on a list of the top 50 single men in a 2001 issue of People magazine.
As a young man, Detrich invested in oil while also running an antiques business in the western Kansas town of Great Bend. He said the oil hunting taught him about fossils, and the antiques shop taught him another lesson: "The money is where the pizzaz is."
He continued: "If it looks like it will eat a 10-year-old boy, it's a big winner."
He was soon unearthing a type of prehistoric underwater predator that resembles a dragon from the bottom of what was once a giant ocean - now the Kansas prairie. The giant sea creatures, called mosasaurs, are worth big money to collectors from Asian countries where the dragon is a symbol of power in folklore and art.
One of Detrich's finds now resides near a collector's swimming pool. Other fossil finds are in overseas museums.
The Samson T. rex is heading overseas as well after a New Jersey-based preparation firm recently finished cleaning and mounting the skeleton. Lacey has not announced where Samson will be displayed.
Over the years, Detrich has often found himself at odds with the scientific community, which generally supports the theory of evolution and prefers to see trained paleontologists uncovering fossils.
Scientists, like Lamanna, also frown upon selling fossils, saying they should be donated instead.
Detrich is aware of the criticism but dismisses it, saying fossil hunting is a risky, expensive business.
"They treat me like a pirate, like a capitalist pirate - one notch short of Enron - because I'm selling these treasures," he said. "It's really global economics. What's wrong with selling these to the world if they've got the money? Really, it's free trade."
Detrich also defends the use of fossils in his art. He said they are not part of larger specimens so their scientific value is limited.
But the artist and collector believes his work is serving a higher cause by promoting his belief in intelligent design, which holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by some kind of higher being. He has even announced plans to run in 2008 for the Kansas Board of Education, whose members have fought intermittently for nearly a decade over the teaching of evolution.
"Is it so hard to believe in God?" he asked. "I think it's harder to believe we evolved from apes."
Raised Catholic, he dreams of his creations residing one day in the Vatican's museums alongside other religious-themed creations from modern-day artists. He plans to head to Italy this year to make his case.
"Any artist recognized in history has made religious art," Detrich said. "This is 21st century religious art. No one has ever built Jesus from dinosaur bones."
it so hard to believe in God?" he asked.
reptile fossil stirs evolution debate
A new find in a remote part of southwestern Asia — bankrolled by Kansas dinosaur hunters — is adding fuel to a controversy sparked by a Kansas University paleontologist.
Last month Larry Martin, professor and senior curator at KU’s Natural History Museum, received an e-mail from a Russian scientist who found a fossil of a reptile that appears to have had feathers.
The reptile is as old as the oldest dinosaur (about 220 million years), and because of the feathers it may have been able to fly or glide.
“This rains on a lot of people’s parades,” Martin said with a chuckle recently, as he reread the e-mail on his office computer in the museum’s basement.
The e-mail was sent
by Evgeny N. Kurochkin, of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Paleontologic
Institute. Kurochkin led a team of researchers who traveled to Kirgizistan
in southwestern Asia in search of fossils.
The excursion by Kurochkin to Kirgizistan was well worth it because of the scientific information he brought back, said Alan Detrich, former Great Bend resident now living in Lawrence, who has retired from a career of hunting dinosaur fossils. His brother has since taken over the Detrich Fossil Co. in Great Bend.
"We're just delighted that more scientific information came out of such a difficult, remote area," Detrich said. "That's a dangerous area to have to go to."
couldn’t imagine how lucky you would
Photo by Scott McClurg, courtesy ljworld.com
all behind him now.
Photo by Richard Gwin
“I really do think that the most interesting part of this is not so much what he’s (Detrich’s) making, but rather the fusion of science and religion — especially the kind of science that shows that the world, evolution and life on earth is a lot older than is written in (the biblical account of creation in) Genesis,” says Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU’s Biodiversity Institute.
Krishtalka says he has not seen Detrich’s dinosaur-fossil religious icons, nor has he met Detrich.
But he’s interested in the message of Detrich’s artwork — whether it’s intended or not.
“Given the current debate about evolution and creationism in the science classroom, his jewelry seems to be a fusion that captures that tension, that dynamic,” Krishtalka says.
“I would like to think that his message is, ‘Hey, we can have science, as represented by dinosaur bones, and religion exist happily, side by side, even in a religious context.’”
And what does the artist himself say?
“I believe in
God. That’s all I have to believe in. And how we got here, that’s
his makings,” Detrich says. “Why don’t we believe in
God first and talk about how he did it later?”
There's a real head-turner
these days inside the Lawrence Public Library.
"There have been a lot of ‘wows,'" said Marie Butler, the library's community relations director, describing the reactions from library patrons.
The fossil belongs to Alan Detrich, a longtime Kansas fossil hunter, who on July 4 will put the Triceratops skull up for sale on the online auction site eBay. Though a formal agreement still has to be worked out, Detrich promised to give some of the sales money to the library. Library officials aren't sure now how the money will be used.
"We are very grateful," Steiner said of Detrich's offer.
"It just seemed
like a good thing to do," Detrich said. "I want to do some positive
things for the community."