We recently announced funding for 16 Seed Grant projects to support creative explorations of dying, death, and bereavement generously supported by Creative Ireland. A prime example is Elaine Mears ‘Memories’ exhibition returning to the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Co Mayo, on Tuesday 24th until Saturday 28th January. Elaine and fellow textile artist Marie Murray are also facilitating workshops to coincide with the exhibition.
Elaine’s inspiration for ‘Memories’ comes from a collection of stories and memories told to her by people in Mayo during dozens of interviews she conducted, each beginning with this question:
“If you could only keep one object that is of sentimental value to you, what would you keep and why?”
One of the most popular responses was a photograph – not just of people who had died, but animals too. Other objects, such as jewellery or a pet’s collar, were similarly chosen because of its strong connection to the memory each object evoked.
The exhibition is a culmination of these memories which have been infused into a tapestry for the senses. It seeks to explore the significance we place on items and the memories an everyday item can evoke. It also includes representations of people’s precious objects, recordings of stories, smells and blended materials which combine to bring all the memories together in one place.
As Elaine told us:
“When this work was exhibited for the first time last year, it provoked strong visceral reactions from many visitors, especially from those experiencing loss, grief, and approaching end of life. For example, a bereaved mother arrived with her most previous item – her recently deceased son’s table tennis bats – as she was hoping there might be an opportunity to create something from these.”
As a result, Elaine resolved to re-mount ‘Memories’ but this time include workshops aimed at giving people an opportunity to channel feelings around loss into something creative within a supportive environment. Each workshop will enable participants to create their own personalised keepsake which responds to the same question that inspired the exhibition. ‘If you could only keep one object that is of sentimental value to you, what would you keep and why?’
During each workshop, attendees will be guided in experimenting with a range of different techniques, including sewing, embroidery, painting and printing on fabric. All materials will be supplied. However, if participants have a special object or photograph they’d like to use as inspiration, they are encouraged to bring it along so they can explore ways to incorporate the meaning of it into their piece. Along with tea, coffee, and biscuits, there will be plenty of caring and supportive conversations.
Naturally, our Arts and Cultural Engagement Officer Dominic Campbell agrees. Not just with the ‘tea, coffee, and biscuits’, but the opportunity they provide for compassionate conversations.
“We know from previous Seed Grant projects and other ongoing projects, such as our Compassionate Culture Network, just how vital conversations are for individuals and communities involved in processing loss and grief felt in everyday life.”
The exhibition is free to attend and there is a nominal €10 charge to participate in a workshop. Discounts are available for those who request. Bookings can be made at www.thelinenhall.com, email [email protected] or call (094) 902 3733.
Tuesday 24th January, 12pm-3pm
Friday 27th January, 10am-1pm
Saturday 28th January, 12pm-3pm
About Elaine Mears
Elaine is a visual artist and theatre maker with a love for all things fabric, found and foraged. Her work explores reminiscent practices, storytelling, concepts of identity, and personal narratives of experience. Elaine’s work in community development and human rights has particularly influenced her in terms of engaging with complex ideas which explore the human condition, power dynamics and art as a means of promoting awareness of marginalisation and exclusion. In her work, she uses natural fabrics and repurposed materials as much as possible. She especially loves using natural methods of fabric dyeing.
About Marie Murray
Marie is a visual artist and designer. She has studied photography and specialises in old Victorian styles such as Wet Plates, Van Dyke Brown, and Cyanotype. She was part of an alternative photography group called ‘Chasing Shadows’ and, with them, exhibited internationally.
Marie’s work explores the trace of the departed which is left behind in photos and how we memorialise the dead. She works with fabric and plant dyeing to convey senses of trace, loss, and departure.
Read more about our Seed Grant Projects 2023 creatively exploring dying, death, and bereavement.