13 November 2021
Hand-blown glass potatoes remembering Great Irish Famine go on display at National Museum of Ireland - Country Life
- 1845: Memento Mori is a ‘labour of love’ that has taken artist 15 years to complete
A stunning installation of 1,845 hand-blown glass potatoes remembering the Great Irish Famine has gone on display at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
Musician and artist Liam Ó Maonlaí performed the official opening of 1845: Memento Mori yesterday evening (Saturday, 13 November).
He described the installation, which has taken Seattle-based artist Paula Stokes 15 years to complete, as a ‘labour of love’.
The title of the project references the year the potato blight came to Ireland, marking the beginning of a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration.
The artwork is on display in a room known as the ‘Landlord’s Library’ at Turlough Park House, where tenants of the Fitzgerald family would pay rent in the 1800s.
As a modern-day member of the Irish Diaspora, Stokes reflects on her own history as an emigrant to examine historical events that have shaped the present. She has also opened a dialogue on how one can learn from the past, and in doing so, hopes to elicit compassionate reflection that transcends the polarising politics of our current time.
Speaking at the official opening, Mr Ó Maonlaí said:
“We live in a world where abstract images become law. Where to turn? What product to buy? What person to love? Truth and common sense get pushed aside. The artist takes the abstract and re-aligns it with a sense of truth and common sense. Paula Stokes is the artist. Here is a labour of love. The viewer’s mind is as much a colour in the palette as the glass and the room and building the glass occupies. We are all in her art.”
Audrey Whitty, Deputy Director/Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland, said:
“We very much welcome this installation to the National Museum of Ireland, where visitors will have the opportunity to appreciate and engage with not only the beauty and power of the work, but also the deep emotional and complex themes with which this installation deals. Paula adapts this artwork for each specific location and this new setting of the Landlord’s Library here at Turlough Park House, where tenant farmers once paid their rent for what was probably a subsistence farm on a tiny parcel of land, adds another thought-provoking layer to Paula’s work.”
Welcoming the official opening of the installation at Turlough Park, Paula Stokes said:
“The form of the installation differs in response to specific locations, changing shape and volume depending on light, accessibility, and exposure of each site. Finding context that is anchored in place, and its history, is part of how the work is uniquely created for each location. In previous installations it has taken the form of a cairn (a traditional stone pile). This presentation is in the Library of Turlough House, a space typically associated with knowledge and information. In this setting the art itself serves as a visual portal to a significant event in Irish history that transcends the written word and language. It spills out across the wooden floor of the Library like a shroud of fragile glass on which no-one would tread.”
1845: Memento Mori first opened at Strokestown Park House in County Roscommon in May 2021 and has been shown since then at Johnstown Castle Estate in County Wexford and the Ulster American Folk Park in County Tyrone.
It is on display at Turlough Park House, the former ancestral home of the Fitzgerald family, at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life just outside Castlebar, Co. Mayo, from 13 November 2021 until 28 May 2022.
The project has been generously supported by the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust.
See www.museum.ie for further information.
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About the artist
Paula Stokes was born and grew up in in Ireland and emigrated to the USA after college. She graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland with a bachelor’s degree in Glass Design. She also has a Certificate in Glassmaking and Technology from the Dudley College of Technology, UK. Stokes received the Milnora Roberts Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Printmaking from the University of Washington, Seattle.
She has exhibited extensively internationally, with exhibitions including 1845: Memento Mori at the Jefferson County Museum of Art and History, Port Townsend and METHOD Gallery, Seattle (2019), Design and Literature Showcase, CIACLA, Los Angeles(2019), Solas: Light Inspires Glass, Morean Arts Center, Florida (2017), Into The Field, The Model Contemporary Art Center, Sligo (2014), Future Beauty at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny(2013), Critical Selection, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Collect 2012, Saatchi Gallery, London, Engaging with Glass, Traver Gallery, Tacoma, and the Solstice Arts Centre, Co. Meath (2011- 2012), Supermarket, Stockholm, Sweden (2012), Transformation, Shift Gallery, Seattle (2012), 21st Century Irish Craft, National Museum of Ireland (2011), and The Wild Geese, Crafts Council of Ireland Gallery, Ireland (2007).
Her work is included in many collections including the National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Embassies in Brussels and Beijing.
Stokes has been awarded residencies at the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, Ballinskelligs, Ireland, and at the Jefferson County Museum of Art and History, Port Townsend, Washington.
About Turlough Park House
Turlough Park House was formally the home of the Fitzgerald family, who were granted a large estate at Turlough, Co. Mayo, under the Cromwellian land settlements in the mid-17th century.
The Fitzgeralds built the current house in 1865. Thomas Newenham Deane, a noted Victorian architect, designed the house and it is described as Victorian Gothic in style.
Mayo County Council purchased the house and gardens in 1991 and it was selected in 1995 as the site for a new National Museum of Ireland to display Ireland’s National Folklife Collection.
The OPW developed modern, award-winning exhibition galleries next to Turlough Park House and the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, housing and displaying Ireland’s National Folklife Collection, opened to the public in 2001.
About the National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland has four public sites, and a Collections Repository:
- National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology (Kildare Street, Dublin 2)
- National Museum of Ireland - Natural History (Merrion Street, Dublin 2)
- National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History (Collins Barracks, Dublin 7)
- National Museum of Ireland - Country Life (Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo)
- Collections Resource Centre (Swords) (Not open to the public)
See www.museum.ie for more.