August 26, 2008

We’re not lost, we’re in Ireland!

It was hard to make the transition form Norway to Ireland: I was excited to head off with Jim on our Irish adventure, but I wasn’t yet ready to leave Norway. My plan, to get to Ireland the evening before Jim arrived (early early the next day) was a good one and I’d planned to use the brief time in Dublin to catch upon blogs, email and maybe even some laundry – so I’d booked myself a regular – and anonymous – airport hotel: my only criteria was that they provided an airport shuttle service and free internet. I got what I paid for, but after Norway it felt alien and bleak. I wolfed down a room service hamburger, washed out some socks, wrote a blog, then went to bed feeling a bit down.

Next morning, though things looked much brighter. I went straight back to the airport to meet Jim and arrived there just as he was coming out of customs. He was looking around for me – with a bit of a furrowed brow, so I jumped up and down, waving my arms and as soon as he caught sight of me, he broke into an ear-to-ear grin. Didn't matter to either of us that it had been raining cats and dogs and a good chunk of Dublin was underwater...
We gathered up our rental car and headed off towards Tullamore. We poked around the town a bit – but nothing seemed to be happening yet so we headed off to Lough Boora Park in search of the Patrick Dougherty sculpture recently installed there.

Now, before I go on...a little back story. Patrick Dougherty is a sculptor and his work has been a favourite of mine since I discovered it – maybe 5 years ago or so - and I’ve kept somewhat current on his work via his website (see favourite web links at the right). His work has always had a sense of the sacred for me – mostly in that I feel that I can sense the kind of meditative state required to create the work and can't help but imgine where that takes the artist. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it, but his work has a kind of stately quiet to it (even though it’s constructed of a riot of sticks) and also a kind of reverence. All of this – his process, his forms...and the effect his works have on me when I see them, had lead me to think that he might be one of the artists I would ask to interview in relationship to my research: I wanted to know if the act of doing the work brought him any closer to his sense of the sacred.
Anyway, about a month before I left on this journey, I was checking in on his website and made a startling discovery: He had just installed a work at Lough Boora Parklands – not 10 miles from my first stop in Athlone, Ireland. I also noticed that the month I’m in Boston (Sept), he’ll be doing an installation just south of Boston and the month I’m in Fort Collins, Colorado (Oct), he’ll be doing an installation in Colorado Springs! This seemed like a nudge...or at least an opportunity not to be missed (actually more like a bit of a jolt) and I emailed him a bit about my work and asked if he’d consider participating in my research. He wrote back – a very friendly email, encouraging me to visit Lough Boora, requesting my feedback and inviting me to contact him when we are both in Boston. I’d also told Jim about his work, sent him the website link and created a new convert – so he was enthusiastic about seeing the work too.

We found Lough Boora easily enough – which is pretty amazing seeing as we were dead-reckoning and turning – predominantly – on intuitive leaps. We were only just beginning to realise that signposts and mile markers as we know them don’t really exist – especially in this part of Ireland.

The park is quite strangely beautiful – peat bogs and wetlands have been set aside and a fairly recent addition has been a number of environmental artworks. We headed off on the artwork trail and encountered a number – maybe 7 or 8 – before reaching Patrick Dougherty’s piece. Some seemed to me to embrace what I would consider essential in a successful environmental work of art: that is that defines some clear relationship with and that it works some magic on the environment it’s in. A couple stand out in this regard: in particular, a pice consisting of seven mirrors place in the ground, reflecting the sky like water.
Another was a triangular shaped enclosure, with a defined a threshhold you pass through to a sacred space within. But, I have to admit, I gave neither of these pieces the attention they probably deserved, because I was so driven to find Patrick’s piece. To finally see one in the real.
Finally, we caught sight of it (Jim first, actually). Nestled in small stand of trees was what I can only describe as a organic longhouse-nest for humans. Woven entirely of saplings, sticks and branches, the work forms an intricate, irregular and meandering tunnel through the trees. It seems to draw you deeper into itself and every now and then, the weaving defines a kind of doorway or window that directs your travel or your gaze outward again. The work seems to reflect the relationship between nature/environmnt and quiet human industry – it is similar in feel to an intricate labyrinth of ant tunnels or an elaborate nest. I’m not sure my words can do the experience of this work justice: It was (is) absolutely enchanting, somehow comforting and grounding, yet magical and very moving.
At one point, quite moved by the work and my experience of it (which in relationship to things referred to as art is fairly rare for me) I said out loud, “This work makes me feel proud to be an artist”. Thank you Patrick Dougherty for your stunning sensibilities and vision. I can’t wait to meet you.

It was hard to leave the work behind, but we went on to find our first night’s accomodation, becoming almost immediately and somewhat hopelessly lost. We found ourselves on a single track road with an approaching herd of cattle. We pulled over as far as we could and the lead farm boy said, “Pull in your mirror!” Good thing, too or we would have lost it as the cattle rumbled by bumping the car and shaking us all around. Jim said, “Now I know I’m in Ireland!”A few miles on, totally lost but not particularly concerned, we pulled over to ask a local man directions to our B&B. He asked if we were lost and I said, We’re not lost, we’re in Ireland!”. He laughed his approval then gave us the list of lefts and rights at the crossroads, by the church, after the shop and over the hill that saw us all the way to our beds and clued us in on our next few days of navigating around Counties Roscommon and Sligo: roadsigns are few and far to come by, directions are complex and what you end up finding have that ‘we were meant to find this feel’. Pulling up to Ballycreggan House was a relief and a wonderful surprise: The restored manor house is likely to be our flashest accomodation in Ireland, but it felt wonderfully welcoming. We decided to celebrate our real arrival in Ireland with a glass of wine out on the long front lawn....that is, until the heavens opened and we had to run inside out of the rain.


Max, Ebbie and the Fuzzheads said...

Cool, sounds like you guys had a lot of fun. Can't wait to hear about it all in more detail. Beautiful artwork too, looks just awesome.

Katie and Emir said...

I love the mirrors in the ground, and the sticks! my goodness, don't they look like sweeping swallows nests or something? so much movement in them, with that really organic intricacy that animals create in their homes. they look so transient and fragile but also like a feat of incredible engineering that you suspect may last forever, despite how delicate they seem. I love it, that dude is cool!

Unknown said...

Was the swirling triangular design in stone at the entrance to a sacred place original and ancient? Was the corresponding sacred place not of enough interest to post with its entrance design? Just a bit puzzled. ( Might you recall the place's name)? I love your blog, thank you for sharing and I truly hope to be able to do the same someday.

21st Century Pilgrim's Progress said...

The work is 0be of several contemporary artworks in place at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.