Outdoor sculpture in Seattle led to more site-specific sculpture in Belfast
Times article explains how I got to Belfast to make more land art and then came up with the concept of The Irish Linen Handkerchief Memorial (to those killed in the sectarianism in Northern Ireland or The Troubles 1960s onwards).
For example, I was included in 2 site-specific outdoor sculpture shows in 1998 and 1999 (curators: The Lennons) in the Pacific Northwest, USA. The article below explains the significance of this Horsehead exhibition in the Seattle area, from Duvall to Sand Point, 1990s.
The culmination, for me, was my inclusion in another land art show (also curated by The Lennons) in N. Ireland in 1999 where I did another earthworks in North Belfast at The Waterworks, County Antrim.
Funding: British Columbia Arts Council, Canada, Northern Ireland Arts Council, the UK lottery monies and the Belfast City Council, as well as family, friends and community arts volunteers.
Acknowledgements: North Belfast "Survivors of Trauma" organisation, off the Antrim Road.
Horsehead arts festival a mainstay in Seattle, to be trotted out in Belfast.
Friday, April 30, 1999 The Seattle Times, Visual Arts, section E5
by Robin Updike
For ten years the summer sculpture happening known as Horsehead has been a must-see for anyone in the Seattle area who cares about outdoor sculpture or risk-taking art.
Now it appears Horsehead is going international, taking its spirit of adventuresome, site-specific, ephemeral artmaking to Belfast, Northern Ireland. After Horsehead opens its Seattle show at the former Navy station at Sand Point on July 11, 15 of the same artists will travel to Belfast to make sculptures for a show opening there on Aug. 14.
The Belfast show is being made possible by grants totaling $108,000 awarded to Horsehead by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which received money through the UK Lottery, and the Belfast City Council.
The grants are a coup for Matthew Lennon, the Seattle man who has organized Horsehead for all of its existence. An artist who makes a living as a maintenance worker at the Seattle Art Museum, Lennon spends much of his free time masterminding each year's exhibition, a task that involves selecting a couple of dozen artists, securing an outdoor location and making sure all the artists complete their projects on time. For many years the show was held on several acres of wooded private property in Duvall, a difficult-to-find semi-secret location that added to the show's reputation as a happening.
But last year, the show moved to Sand Point, an easily accessible location offering artists numerous opportunities to create artworks not just outdoors but also in and around the abandoned buildings on the base. The move gave the show a larger audience and a less exclusive tone without letting go of any of the vitality and edge its fans have come to expect.
Artworks made at Horsehead are decidedly noncommercial. May are made with such materials as bales of hay, mounds of earth and other things that will not survive more than a couple of months. Not one has ever sold, though they technically are for sale. In the past, Lennon has funded the shows with his own money and with whatever the artists themselves could contribute.
This year, for the first time, he is also soliciting money for the Seattle show. So far he has raised about $10,000 from local arts patrons Jon and Mary Shirley, Anne Gerber, Catherine and David Skinner and others. That money will buy airplane tickets for the Seattle artists who will travel to Belfast to make sculpture. Lennon says he'd eventually like to be able to pay participating artists a fee and cover their expenses for materials, which they now pay for themselves.
The Belfast connection comes because Lennon's family has roots in Ireland and he started visiting there regularly about five years ago. Soon he was inviting Belfast artists to Seattle to produce work for his shows here. He also met and married a Belfast woman whose background is in cultural and arts organization. Maxine Lennon now works with her husband to organize Horsehead.
"We've had a very good response to Horsehead in Belfast," said Lennon. "We're going to get sites all over the city for artists to use. In Europe there's a much longer tradition of site-specific installation work, and I think people in Belfast want to think about art and the idea that there's more over there than the 'Troubles' (the term commonly used in Northern Ireland to describe the ongoing conflict between Catholics and Protestants)."
Lennon said 80 artists will participate in the shows, though only 15 will be in both. The Seattle artists who will create works for Sand Point and then go to Belfast are Julie Speidel, Michael McCafferty, Tom Gormaley, Sean Miller, Helen Lessick and Carol De Pelecyn. Five Irish and two Taiwanese artists [Chin Ming Lee and another man] will also participate in both shows, as will one from Canada [Lycia Danielle Trouton] and one from Italy. Travel expenses for the Irish artists will come out of the government grants. The other foreign artists also are receiving grants from their governments, said Maxine Lennon.
Maxine Lennon said the idea is to eventually hold Horsehead shows on numerous international sites. "We hope to continue moving artists around the world," she said. "We're hoping to be in Australia in 2001. We like the idea of artists as cultural ambassadors and we like the dialogue that occurs when artists from around the world get together and get involved in communities."
Photocopy of original Seattle Times article