Thursday, March 17, 2016

On being Irish and an artist.

Think of a famous Irish painter or sculptor. Is it hard? That's because when we think of famous Irish people and their talents, the names that come up are people whose talents tend to lean more to the gift of word or song. Writers and poets like, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Frank McCourt, Oscar Wild, Maeve Binchy. Musicians like Sinead O'Connor, Van Morrison,  Bono and Enya to name a few.

The Irish also tend to make their mark in acting. It's not to hard to think of any number of Irish actors- Michael Fassbender, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Farrell,  and Peter O'Toole. The list goes on. Unlike the Italians or French or Spanish, it's rather difficult to conjure up the names of famous Irish visual artists like painters or sculptors. Certainly there are a few in history like John Butler Yates (I'd never heard of him, I  looked it up)

Not to say that there are no great Irish artists. I'm sure there are many working today.  But those names are not on the tips of our tongues like Picasso and Michelangelo and Monet etc. It kind of makes you wonder why the history of visual arts tends to center in the European continent while in Ireland, the concentration of artistic expression is in writing and poetry and play writing and acting and song.

Perhaps it is in part because of the poverty that the Irish suffered. I suppose that if you have no money for food, you definitely have no money available for art supplies. But you do have your words and you do have good stories to tell and you have thoughts to be expressed and those don't cost anything.

The Irish possess a certain melancholy and tendency towards drinking inherent in the bloodline (in case you didn't know) perhaps due to that history of poverty. But they also possess a wild sense of humor and witticism that shows up in all forms of their artistic expression.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic household. (My fathers side) No one in my family made art except for what you could call a creative streak in my mother, which she discovered later in life when she learned to crochet and macrame and then proceeded to macrame everything in sight in the 1970s.

Not my mother but you get the idea 

My early creative life in painting began with personal paintings that expressed some of the more sinister undertones of my upbringing in an alcoholic Irish family and my own melancholy.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped looking back, and began to express that wild humor and witticism that is also inherent in my genes, thanks to my Irish ancestors. Like many children of alcoholics, you don't get to have a childhood, and I think that my current work- the bright, colorful, whimsical stuff that should be the fabric of every child's world, has been called forth in me to express and share so that other's inner child will be called forth too.

I don't know where I got the talent for painting and pottery. Perhaps it is because I grew up in America and had more available to me. I'm also French and German and Czech. So maybe it came from there. I don't know. All I know is that I'm lucky to be an artist.  (yes, Irish lucky).