Artist Residency, Shorelines Arts Festival, 2017.
“Ten Decades, Ten Cubes”was the result of an artist residency I undertook with the support of the Arts Council and Shorelines Arts Festival in 2017.
Ten cubes of various sizes are used to depict the development of agricultural practices and their effects on Portumna Town between 1917 and 2017. The role of women in agriculture is referenced through the examination of the experiences of women who worked and studied at the local school of domestic economy. Text from a 1908 copybook features on the surfaces of the cubes with for example, skills and practices for animal husbandry, anatomical studies of animals studied by the women at the time and details on the role of domestic servants in landed estates and farmhouses. These cubes bear witness to the skills and resilience of these women in running homes and farms and in producing food.
Images of shopping trolleys and delivery vans show elements of Portumna today. Diets, lifestyles and methods of food production have changed. The School of Domestic Economy has been transformed into a thriving organic garden. It provides an alternative to modern agricultural practices some of which have had a negative effect on the environment. The Artwork reflects these concerns and traces the patterns of agricultural work carried out by generations of the community of Portumna.
Artist Residency, Anatomy Department, N.U.I. Galway, 2016.
I began my artist residency in the Anatomy Department on 30th May 2016. I started by documenting various artifacts in the building by drawing them. These included beeswax models of an embryo and papier maché models of internal organs, which originated from a factory in Auzouz, France. I was also interested in the tension between the historical and functional aspects of the building. The lecture room predates the founding of the university. It once formed part of a residence, Belmont House, which was owned by the Whalley family. The front section of the house was demolished during the 1930’s and replaced with a flat-roofed building. Renovations and adjustments have transformed the interior of the building since then. However cut stone passageways (which are now blocked up) and empty fireplaces are reminders of the past uses of the space.
I appreciated the financial and artistic support I got from Fionnuala Gallagher N.U.I.G. arts officer and her team. I also received generous assistance from Professor Peter Dockery and the staff of the Anatomy Department. They facilitated the artist residency which allowed me access to the dissection room, histology slides and the process of their production.
The concept of making something invisible visible resonated with me as the Anatomy Department is a place many generations have passed through and left their mark upon. Through my artist residency work I attempt to dissect the history of Belmont House and reveal the layers of human activity witnessed there.
Solo Exhibition, Farnham Art Gallery, Simpson College, Iowa, 2016.
By invitation from Professor David Richmond of Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa, I exhibited my work at Farnham Gallery which is situated on the college campus. The exhibition consisted of oil paintings, mixed media drawings and small scale sculptures which were autobiographical in subject matter.
The exhibition demonstrated to students from the Fine Art Department at Simpson College how work develops from notebooks to more large scale work on canvas, paper and wood. Primary sources such as the details of a shopping centre car park or local flora and fauna inspire me to make art. I was keen to discuss this with students and the general public at an artist’s talk I gave during the exhibition. I create art based on my own experiences of my local environment. It was gratifying to bring an exhibition based on my life experiences in the west of Ireland to the American mid-west.
Martist Exhibition, Athenry Livestock Mart, 2015.
In 2015 I was part of a group of artists who came together to organise and exhibit work based on the cultural, business and agricultural importance of Athenry Livestock Mart. My focus was on the Mart carpark and the vehicles it contained. Although these jeeps and tractors were built for a practical purpose, there is a strong aesthetic quality to their appearance.
They represent for me the modern “health and safety” aspect of agriculture. Cattle can no longer be herded along the local roads to the mart due to the dangers of fast moving traffic. The vehicles are also symbolic of agriculture being a business rather than a romantic ideal. The blocks of wood I created depict these vehicles on a small scale as playthings. Farmers often learn their trade from parents and guardians during childhood. These vehicles present an image of durability, power and resilience. By reducing their appearance in size I am emphasising a certain fragility and doubt.