Irish Potato Famine Exhibition
Seattle based Irish artist Paula Stokes who has previsouly worked with Waterford Crystal is returning to the Southeast with her internationally renowned ‘1845: Memento Mori’ exhibition, an outdoor installation of some 1,845 hand-blown glass potatoes to be displayed at Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens in Wexford from 17th July – 21st August 2021.
The site specific exhibition is a Famine Memorial dedicated to the Irish Potato Famine. The title of the project references the year that the potato blight came to Ireland, marking the beginning of a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration. Over 1.5 million people died, and a further 1 million emigrated to Australia, Canada, and America. Each glass potato is hand blown and then sandblasted, creating a white ghostly appearance to the potatoes. The large mound of glass potatoes and the fragility of the glass are very representative both of the vulnerability and of the resilience of those who died and those who survived the Famine.
Paula says that she is delighted to take the exhibition to the southeast to Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens – an Irish Heritage Trust property – as she has close connections to the region having returned to Ireland to work for the American artist Dale Chihuly at Waterford Crystal, on his project “Chihuly Over Venice” in 1995.
“Over the course of a few years, Chihuly worked in a handful of famous glass factories worldwide, including Waterford Crystal. Chihuly was the first artist in residence at the factory and I was honoured to work on his team making thousands of glass elements that were then transported to Lismore Castle for a series of beautiful exhibitions there.
I’m delighted to be now returning to the Southeast with my own exhibition and unveil ‘1845: Memento Mori’ at the spectacular Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens in County Wexford on July 17th. I hope that the installation will resonate with a wide variety of audiences as it reminds us of our own fragile humanity and serves as a connection between shared human experiences in the past and the present.”
Visitors to Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens, will be able to view the exhibition as it sits within one of the fishing towers within the gardens, enabling visitors to view it while being outdoors. Paula says that the form of the installation often differs in response to specific locations, changing shape and volume depending on light, accessibility, and exposure of each site that it is showcased.
“We are delighted to be welcoming this fascinating site-specific exhibition to the south east from our Irish Heritage Trust sister property Strokestown Park & The National Famine Museum”, said Brenda Comerford, General Manager, Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens. “The majestic setting of the fishing tower which overlooks the garden lake and the gothic Revival castle is ideal for this Famine memorial. It offers a unique way of representing the history of the Famine that is very tangible to our visitors who can also view our Famine Cottage and Exhibition here in the self-guided Irish Agricultural Museum. We look forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy this exhibition while they meander our gardens and lake walks.”
Stokes graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland with a bachelor’s degree in Glass Design. She also has a Certificate in Glassmaking and Technology from the Dudley College of Technology, UK. Stokes received the Milnora Roberts Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Printmaking from the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
She has exhibited extensively internationally, with exhibitions including 1845: Memento Mori at the Jefferson County Museum of Art and History, Port Townsend and METHOD Gallery, Seattle (2019), Design and Literature Showcase, CIACLA, Los Angeles (2019). Her work is included in many collections including the National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Embassies in Brussels and Beijing.
In May 2021, 1845: Memento Mori travelled to Ireland for the first time to be exhibited at multiple venues over two years, including Strokestown Park & The National Famine Museum in Co. Roscommon, Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens in Co. Wexford, the American Folk Park, Ulster Museum, Co. Tyrone, and at the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life in Co. Mayo.
Paula Stokes graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland with a Bachelor’s Degree (with honours) in Glass Design. She also has a Certificate in Glassmaking and Technology from the Dudley College of Technology, UK. Stokes received the Milnora Roberts Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Printmaking from the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Stokes moved to Seattle in 1993. In 1995 she travelled to Ireland to work on Dale Chihuly’s prestigious Chihuly Over Venice project at Waterford Crystal. Stokes continued to work with Chihuly’s team until 2000, specifically working as a project lead in the construction of his Chandeliers series.
In 1996, together with Róisín de Buitléar, she established a visiting artist program at the National College of Art and Design(NCAD), where professional artists from Seattle worked with the students. Stokes has taught extensively at Pratt Fine Arts Center, Urban Glass, the Seattle Glassblowing Studio, the Pilchuck Glass School, and at NCAD.
As Exhibitions Manager at Pratt Fine Art Center, she curated and staged over 70 exhibitions in sculpture, jewellery, painting and printmaking. In 2012, Stokes facilitated the presentation of Engaging with Glass, a survey of contemporary Irish Glass at Traver Gallery in Tacoma. She also worked on the exhibition of Caution! Fragile by Róisín de Buitléar at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.
In 2013, Stokes co-founded the non-profit gallery METHOD, where she has co-curated over 40 exhibitions featuring site-specific installation-based art. Stokes returned to work for Dale Chihuly in 2013 and was the project director of his Ulysses Cylinders, which premiered at Dublin Castle in 2014. Until 2020, she managed Chihuly’s glassblowing studio, in addition to working on special projects.
She has exhibited her own work extensively, with exhibitions including Wild Geese at the Green Door Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, (2020), Solas: Light Inspires Glass, Morean Arts Center, Florida (2017), Into The Field, The Model Contemporary Art Center, Sligo (2014), Future Beauty at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny(2013), Critical Selection, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Collect 2012, Saatchi Gallery, London, Engaging with Glass, Traver Gallery, Tacoma, and the Solstice Arts Centre, Co. Meath, Ireland (2011- 2012), Supermarket, Stockholm, Sweden (2012), Transformation, Shift Gallery, Seattle (2012), 21st Century Irish Craft, National Museum of Ireland (2011), and The Wild Geese, Crafts Council of Ireland Gallery, Ireland (2007).
Stokes’ work is included in many collections including the National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Embassies in Brussels and Beijing. She has been awarded artist’s residencies at the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, Ballinskelligs, Ireland, and at the Jefferson County Museum of Art and History, Port Townsend, Washington. In 2019, she presented her installation 1845: Memento Mori, a memorial to the Irish Potato Famine, at the Jefferson County Museum of Art and History, and at METHOD Gallery, Seattle. https://www.1845mementomori.com/