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Dorothy’s art gives death new lease of life

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Dorothy Cross in her studio which is dominated by a ‘currach’ hanging from the ceiling. She hung it there to tidy it away, she explains. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets an innovative artist whose art works challenge the notions of beauty and ugliness

Early in her career as an artist, Dorothy Cross visited Norway, where she saw a cow’s udder being used as a sieve. The udder was stretched over a circle of timber, in the way a goat’s skin is treated here in Ireland to make a bodhrán.

That sight opened her eyes to a part of the cow’s body that most people would only ever regard as being useful for producing milk . . . assuming we were to think about it at all.

“That use of an animal was so functional and so economical and showed an appreciation of every aspect of the cow,” she says. It struck Dorothy as being humorous and tragic, and was also slightly surreal to someone seeing it for the first time.

That was a long time ago, but since then, animals – among them, sharks, jellyfish, crabs, cows and humans – have all featured in Dorothy’s art.  Her sculptures, films and photographs encourage us to reassess our relationships with the world around us, challenging notions about what we deem beautiful and what we regard as distasteful.

Her work is beautiful, surreal and often challenging but nothing is done to shock or be grotesque, she says. In person, she is warm and quirky and that’s reflected in the art, where there’s a sense of mischief and gentle humour.

“There has to be,” says Cork-born Dorothy who lives just outside Tully Cross in Connemara, with seas, mountains and islands on her doorstep.

Her work is about exploring aspects of life, she muses, sitting in her purpose-built studio that looks onto the Atlantic, as two dogs lie at her feet. One is hers, the other is a neighbours. Dorothy’s studio, which was added to an existing bungalow she bought in the early 2000s, was built at an angle, to maximise the view while limiting exposure to the weather, and it’s a ‘wow’ place.

Much of Dorothy Cross’s work centres on marine life – her love of all things maritime began at a young age. Reared in Montenotte in Cork City, her family had a small house by the sea in nearby Fountainstown, where the family spent a great deal of time. Her parents had met while boating, so the sea was in her genes. Dorothy and her sister were champion swimmers and she is still passionate about swimming. The main reason she settled in Tully Cross was that Scuba Dive West is right beside her, which offered her an opportunity to continue the scuba diving that she had begun in the South Pacific. Scuba Dive West are brilliant, she says.

Her studio, which houses everything from mannequins to a two-ring stove where she is melting wax, is dominated by a ‘currach’ hanging from the ceiling. She hung it there to tidy it away, she explains. The piece is titled Basking Shark Currach and has the skin of a basking shark stretched over a timber frame similar to a currach’s. This piece looks like a currach, but its skin isn’t as you’d expect and its timberwork is exposed, meaning the viewer must examine it several times over see exactly what’s going on. The body of the shark used here was found washed up on a beach in Waterford and she had it transported to her studio.

Another work, Everest Shark, is based on a blue shark, which was supplied by a fishmonger in Northern Ireland.

She made a model of that blue shark and cast it in bronze. Then she created Everest on its back. This bronze sculpture was her way of examining time and the way humans perceive it. Sharks have existed for over 400 million years, and Everest rose from the bottom of the sea 60 million years ago, she says. The arrogance of the human notion of time in relation to geological time is something she challenges.

While sharks recur in her work, it’s getting more difficult to obtain them now that killing shark for food is illegal in Ireland – something she’s happy about. Dorothy’s work uses these creatures to explore the world around her; “the relationship between the beautiful and the rugged . . . and our attitudes to things”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Prizewinners at Ballinasloe Show on October 5, 1970. From left: Matthew Conneely, Kilconnell, Matthew Conneely (Junior), John Callanan, Calla, Kilconnell and Seán Conneely, Kilconnell.

1921

Grim legacy

“What did we get from the Government in the Famine?” asked the Most Rev. Dr. Duggan. And the answer was, “The Poorhouses.” They came as a legacy of these grim years, a miserable palliative instead of a radical cure.

When 1845 opened, there were 114 of them throughout Ireland, and impoverished ratepayers had to pay for their upkeep. Their erection was, indeed, in some measure, instituted as a relief work.

The famine had swept over the land, leaving us the most tragic chapters in our history. Grim, black death in a country where there was plenty, if only it had been efficiently distributed, and kept for the hapless people at home.

The Irish Poor Law was rooted in misery, and continued throughout all these years as a cumbersome degradation, designed for the encouragement of the mendicant and the wastrel, to crush the last vestige of self-respect from those whom it once caught within its toils.

With the exception of the admirable boarding-out systems instituted by some of our more humane boards – notably Galway Guardians, whose clerk took a keen personal interest in making some of his charges into good citizens – we know no instance in which the vicious Poor Laws as operated in Ireland did anything but harm.

They ground down the ratepayers; they did not serve the poor in any measure commensurate with the expenditure involved in an army of officials, an array of buildings that badged with poverty one of the finest agricultural countries in the world.

Unions amalgamated

On the motion of Dr. Walsh, Galway Co. Council at its quarterly meeting on Saturday finally adopted a scheme for “the amalgamation of the county unions” – in reality, for doing away with the unions altogether as such.

The scheme under which the Poor Laws of the country will be administered on an entirely new basis, will be as follows: One central hospital for Galway with motor ambulances; one central home for the old and infirm in Tuam or Loughrea; children to be sent to an institution for which one workhouse may be used; unmarried mothers to be divided into two classes – first offenders to be dealt with in the same institution as the children and old offenders to be sent to the Magdalen Asylum; insane and epileptics to be put in a county home at present until they can be specially dealt with.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Preying for success

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John Carrig with Erin. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle A voluntary group working to ensure the survival and success of Ireland’s endangered barn owl is getting a positive response from landowners and schools throughout Galway. Its founder, wildlife photographer John Carrig, tells STEPHEN CORRIGAN how small changes can make a big difference and how the Barn Owl Project plans to spread its wings and work with community groups nationwide.

When wildlife photographer John Carrig founded the Barn Owl Project in 2019, what was known about this endangered species of bird’s presence throughout Galway was limited to say the least.

Official records from BirdWatch Ireland documented just six or eight nesting sites around the county, but since John and the team behind the project got to work, up to 50 have been identified.

While some of these have been created through the placement of nest boxes by this team of local volunteers whose work extends beyond just Galway, many more nests were there just waiting to be discovered – and protected.

The Barn Owl Project’s work is not limited to the location of unregistered sites, though. A huge part of what the volunteers do is education, through visiting schools and community groups and through talking to landowners who, in many ways, hold the fate of these mesmerising creatures in their hands.

One of the main threats posed to the barn owl is secondary poisoning with rodenticide – when the owl feeds on rats and mice that have been poisoned, causing them to die as a result.

This, coupled with a lack of suitable nesting sites and road collisions, has led to a declining population, to the point where the barn owl now has ‘red conservation status’.

“The barn owl has always been well-known in Ireland, but most people have never seen one. It’s called the ‘scréachóg reilige’ in Irish and 150 years ago, people would have known them as ‘the Banshee’, because of the noise they make,” says John.

“They were very prevalent in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s and were known as the farmer’s friend because they were a way of controlling rodents. Farmers would leave a hole in the apex of the barn because they knew it would attract them in,” he adds, although despite their name, they don’t necessarily nest in barns.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Revive Active launches a supplement for menopause

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

A lot of us got in on the Revive Active supplements when they were the brainchild of Galway man Dáithi O’Connor in 2011.  Hot on the heels of its supplements specifically formulated for juniors and teens – and following two years of research – the Galway-headquartered company has launched a new super supplement range for women to take during and after menopause.

Meno Active has a sachet and capsule to be taken together once daily containing 30 vitamins, minerals, omega 3, digestive enzymes, plant extracts and strains of live friendly bacteria.

Ingredients include Vitamin B6 to regulate hormones, biotin, magnesium, thiamine and iodine for the nervous system, omega 3 for brain function, vitamin C to counteract tiredness, and the plant extracts ashwagandha for stress, sage for perspiration and memory loss and green tea to help with blood pressure.

When I went to see a practitioner for symptoms of perimenopause, I was prescribed about 10 different supplements, many of them these ones, which cost a small fortune. I needed a reminder on my phone throughout the day to remember which ones to take and when.

Meno Active costs €60 a month and is recommended for at least three months to help ease the long, long list of horrible symptoms that the change of life may bring.

I’ve been taking this for nearly a month and it’s very easy to take – the only rule is take it 30 minutes before food. It tastes pleasant enough, kind of citrusy, I just mix it in a glass of cool boiled water.

I’ve definitely had a burst of energy with it and it’s helped with night sweats already. Not so sure whether it will help with the mood swings, which my family tell me are shocking, but I will give it another two months to see if that miracle is going to bless this house.

Available from most chemists and health food shops.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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