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Dessa Kirk

Dessa Kirk is known for her tall, graceful sculptures of the nymph Daphne, and large-scale lilies created from old Cadillacs.

Dessa began working with metal as a child in Alaska where she spent summers with her grandfather at a remote gold mine. A resourceful man, he encouraged Dessa to make whatever she could envision or draw. Together they welded and built machinery in the mine. Dessa's teen years were difficult, but her devotion to sculpture paid off when she landed a scholarship at Chicago's School of the Art Institute. She stayed in Chicago after graduating in 1996, and in 2006 she bought a building on the city's West Side that doubles as her home and studio.

As a teenager, Dessa watched the many prostitutes working the streets of Anchorage. These women were controlled by pimps whose greatest desire, aside from power and wealth, was to own a Cadillac. By crafting her large lilies from old Cadillacs, Dessa restores beauty and dignity to objects that came to symbolize the degradation of women. Her Daphne sculptures represent strong women who have found freedom through faith, surrender and acceptance, themes Dessa says are at the root of her work. Photography on this page courtesy of Bill Richert.

Dessa has been commissioned to create an outdoor sculpture for the city of Columbus, Indiana, and her work can be seen in Three Oaks, Michigan, West Lafayette, Indiana, Anchorage, Alaska, and Chicago's Grant Park.

Learn More About the Other Artists in Beauty Rises: Orbert Davis
Allison Joseph
Laura Wiley

Bonus Material

Dessa Kirk on: CHICAGO

NAVY PIER Pier Walk Sculpture Show







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Dessa Kirk tells the story of Daphne while hanging lights on her sculpture at the entrance to Chicago's Grant Park.

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Dessa Kirk casts Allen Turner's face while entertaining her captive audience with the story of her upbringing.

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Dessa Kirk explains why she creates sculpture from old Cadillacs.

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Billy Corgan talks with Dessa Kirk about the set pieces she created for his stage show.


Related Podcasts

Sculpture Podcast

Vis. Arts Podcast


Related Images

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Dessa Kirk astride her motorcycle.

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Dessa works on Daphne in her Lake Street studio.

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Dessa finishes welds on the head of Daphne, who seems to yield to the sculptor's care.


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