McMullen Exhibit Features Work Of Irish
Women Artists

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

The McMullen Museum of Art will showcase 13 Irish women artists who offer new expressions of Ireland's national identity when it hosts an exclusive exhibition, "Re/Dressing Cathleen: Contemporary Works from Irish Women Artists," from Oct. 5 through Dec. 7.

The exhibition, which will be supplemented by several events and a catalog co-authored by Boston College faculty, features nearly 50 works in various media, including painting, sculpture, photography and video. Nine of the artists are expected to attend the exhibition's opening reception from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5, where National Gallery of Ireland President Carmel Naughton will deliver opening remarks. The event is free and open to the public.

"We are pleased to present this first exhibition of Irish contemporary women artists in America and to be able, through the unique scholarly resources of the University, to cast the works in a broad and interdisciplinary context," said McMullen Museum Director Nancy Netzer.

"This is the first exhibition in this country to explore the work of contemporary Irish women artists," said McMullen Museum Curator Alston Conley, "and an examination of a generation of young artists that has become a prominent force toward reshaping the arts in the Ireland in the last decade."

There are many significant aspects to "Re/Dressing Cathleen," exhibition organizers said. It marks the 150th anniversary of "Black '47," the pivotal year of Ireland's Great Famine that placed a particularly heavy burden on women - they accounted for two-thirds of the Irish emigrants who sailed to America in the wake of the catastrophe.

Rita Duffy's oil-on-paper "Journey" is among the works included in the exhibit.

The artists participating in "Re/Dressing Cathleen" are among the first generation of Irish women artists to receive national and international recognition, organizers said. They include Pauline Cummins, Mary FitzGerald, Eithne Jordan, Alice Maher, Eilis O'Connell, Geraldine O'Reilly, Louise Walsh, Rita Duffy, Finola Jones, Mary Lohan, Deirdre O'Connell, Gwen O'Dowd and Kathy Prendergast.

The "Cathleen" in the exhibition's title refers to Cathleen ni Houlihan, the central character in a 1902 play by W.B. Yeats who has come to symbolize Irish womanhood, Exhibition Coordinator Jennifer Grinnell said. In "re/dressing" Cathleen and other symbols of Irish national identity, she explained, the artists in the show are looking anew at Irish icons, "putting new clothes on them and giving them a new image."

Alice Maher, for example, portrays a traditional thatched cottage roof as a crown of thorns, in a commentary on both Christianity and the romanticizing of rural Ireland, said Grinnell. An etching by Geraldine O'Reilly depicts a series of heads, inspired by an Irish newsmagazine's running photo feature on casualties of Northern Irish strife, but also recalling a common motif in ancient Celtic warrior art.

The 140-page catalog accompanying the exhibition, which examines the works from literary and historical art perspectives, will be available at the Boston College Bookstore. Along with renowned Irish art critics and scholars, contributors include Irish Studies Program Co-director Prof. Adele Dalsimer (English), Prof. Pamela Berger (Fine Arts), Assoc. Prof. Philip O'Leary (English), Asst. Prof. Claude Cernuschi (Fine Arts), Adj. Prof. Ruth-Ann Harris (History) and part-time faculty members James Smith (English) Robert Savage (History) and Katherine Nahum (Fine Arts).

The exhibition also will be accompanied by a series of educational programs sponsored by the museum, Boston College Alumni Association, Irish Studies and the Fine Arts Department. These include gallery talks, a film series, and weekly lectures by catalog contributors. The lectures, which begin with an Oct. 15 talk by Pine Manor College English Professor Vera Kreilkamp titled "Re/Dressing Mother Ireland: Feminist Imagery in Art and Literature," are open to the public for a cost of $25 per lecture or $125 for the series. Tickets are available from Kathy Tucker of the Alumni Association at ext. 2-4752. Information on the free film series, which begins Oct. 16, is available from the Fine Arts Department at ext. 2-4295.

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