Spring is here and my thoughts drift to summer plans. Images of last summer float in and out of memory and what I had hoped would be several blogs about my visit transformed into what can only be described as a love letter to Ireland. Immersing myself in Irish culture for a period of two weeks was not enough time for everything, but sufficient for falling in love with a beautiful country and its lovely inhabitants. When I visit a country I love to learn of the socio-economic, political, psychological, spiritual and historical milieu of the region. To quote one of my favorite performance artists, Rebecca Belmore, "I like to tap into that which makes us human." With that in mind I begin.....
Thank you Dublin for being so easy to navigate unlike New York City, London, Rome or Paris which I love, but getting around is more difficult! Thank you for sharing your incredible history, Dublin Castle in particular was enlightening! Few Dubliners have visited as I later found out by talking to the locals..."How was it? I've never been," I was often told. It was profound to stand in so many spaces where so many acts of heroism occurred, such as the spot where Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan handed the keys of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins and famously chided him for being seven minutes late, to which Collins replied, "We have waited for seven hundred years, you can wait for seven minutes." To walk down what is now O'Connell street and the sites of the Easter Rising where men like James Connolly and the schoolteacher Patrick Pearse laid down their lives to pave the way for Ireland free of English rule was awe-inspiring. Their portraits, along with other members of the rebellion which hang in the James Connolly room in Dublin Castle sent chills up my spine. I did not know there were two rivers in Dublin. I had heard of the Liffey River but did not know the Poddle River runs underneath the city of Dublin and can be seen in Dublin Castle's underground. Thank you Dublin for your hospitality and charm which your people, food, music and tour guides exuded. Thank you for sharing your poets, writers, and lovely parks filled with wonderful art. All your buskers were truly exceptional and the music everywhere delightful!
Thank you to Newgrange, Giant's Causeway and the city of Belfast. I wish you well Belfast and all the peacemakers on both sides who strive for lasting peace. I am indebted to the black cab drivers who drove us to the Peace Walls. I shall never forgot the wall and am so grateful to have been able to sign it. I signed it with the word Hózhó from the Navajo people of the southwest where I reside. It's a concept really, more than a word. It means to live in harmony, to walk in beauty, something I think we all struggle with. We definitely do not have it all together in the USA but you knew that.
Thank you to Cork City especially our guide Fionna who explained the political history of Ireland through the National Monument in Cork City dedicated to the martyrs and leaders of the various uprisings. In the center of the monument is the sculpture of a woman, Kathleen, who represents the country of Ireland, the mother who takes care of her own. Fionna told us that the Irish songs about Kathleen were not about an individual woman but about the longing for Ireland! We also witnessed a political rally promoting the boycott of a water tax, very exciting!
The purpose of this visit was to meet and study with your clay artists and I am so grateful for their sharing of their time, talents, studios and families. So thank you to Adrian Wistreich of Kinsale Pottery School for organising this event. Thank you to Sara Roberts, Robert Lee, Darren Cassidy, Kathleen Standen, Jim Turner, Julian Smith and Cormac Boydel, They were all lovely and amazing! Thank you to all the cultural institutions, fine art galleries and design schools who opened your doors for us sometimes after hours! Thanks to Kathleen Standen for orchestrating an impromptu visit to Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen for a sneak preview of the exhibition Nearshore featuring work by Kathleen, Cormac Boydel, Karen Hendy and John Kingerlee. Thank you to Nick of Nicholas Mosse Pottery for his hospitality and unbridled enthusiasm for clay and his business. I have to mention that on our way to Ireland we visited our old haunt, the Chicago Art Institute, (lived there in the early eighties) and to our surprise we saw this lovely exhibition, Ireland Crossroads of Art and Design 1690-1840.
Jim Turner, Mr. Ceramics of Ireland! What a delightful presentation!
As with all love letters there are inevitably things we forget to say. A special thanks to the town of Kinsale where we spent most of our time. Considered the gourmet capital of Ireland, you lived up to that reputation! The music heard in your pubs was exceptional! We loved the many hiking trails so near our hotel, the harbour, and the lovely town itself; you were warm, kind, and helpful. All your towns and its inhabitants were actually quite wonderful. I often think of your hills and mountains dotted with sheep and cows in green fields, streams, rivers and breathtaking ocean views. Yes, I am a Game of Thrones fan and did not realize they filmed at Giants Causeway, so was happy to see that!
Finally "that which makes us human," I found everywhere. We are all interested in freedom, job security, healthcare, education, to believe or not to believe, and search for beauty in everyday living. Art was the purpose of the trip as I mentioned before. Artists and the creative act of making connects us to the everyday, the sacred, and the mundane. Artists are the soul keepers of any society. A painting or mural or sculpture imbued with a political commentary, mnemonic content, or a simple bowl lovingly crafted that is a container for all things comforting, artist and artisans provide this, feeding our psyches with truth and beauty. I think you are well represented, Ireland by your artists and artisans. I wish you well and hope to see you again. Walk in beauty! I know you will.
With much love,
PS. I've included some links you may enjoy perusing: 1. New York Times video: 36 hours in Dublin, 2. Tony Bourdain's Layover in Dublin from the travel Channel, 3. New York Times 36 hours in Belfast.
PS.S I did visit Blarney Castle! Thanks to all your fabulous castles which stir the imagination!