Curators Notes, Ruth Carroll RHA Curator:
You always remember your first encounter with an artwork. Maria McKinney’s Sire work is possibly one of the most memorable. Ploughing Championships, Stradbally, 2015, two Dublin based curators took the train, wellies in tow, to see the new sculptures that had come from a long period of research into the beef industry and in particular the scientific interventions into the nature of breeding. So, amongst the farmers and the salesmen, the deals getting done over tea and the adverts for DIY AI courses (artificial insemination for those outside the agribusiness world), Maria’s sculptures sat proud over the various penned beasts, the “after” result of the deal so to speak. The artwork acted as a catalyst for a polite and open questioning, the farmers about art, the curators about animal breeding and most things agricultural. I’ve gone to the Ploughing most years since this first visit. It’s cancelled this year due to obvious reasons. I’m dreaming of 2021 when I can pack my wellies and ask polite questions about all things agri. Ruth Carroll, RHA Curator, May 2020.
In pre-Christian Europe humans annually performed a custom that is considered by some as an attempt to influence the future behavior of nature. Part of this practice involved making a corn dolly, an object made through the intricate handcraft of binding straw with the final sheaf of that year’s crop. Kept safe through the winter months this figurine was then deliberately destroyed the following year as the new seed was being sewn. This doll has since become a symbol of fertility, both of the land and the living creatures that feed off it.
In contemporary society however, the branch of knowledge known as genomics has given scientists the true ability to direct nature in the future development of animal and plant species, thanks to an understanding of the complex patterns held within the structure of DNA.
For the past eighteen months Maria McKinney has been working with Dovea Genetics (a bull stud with 90 bulls standing at stud producing semen in a controlled environment), quantitative geneticist Dr. Donagh Berry, Teagasc, genome biologist Prof. David MacHugh, UCD and Head of Veterinary Clinical Studies Prof. Michael Doherty, UCD to develop a body of work that explores the correlation between the predictive features of genomics in the development of beef and dairy cattle and how this might echo the prophesying function of the corn dolly.
Maria McKinney is a visual artist based in Dublin. She was shortlisted for the MAC International 2014 selected by Hugh Mulholland, MAC, Francesco Bonami, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and Judith Nesbitt, Tate. Recently she completed a residency in the UCD School of Science.
Previous solo exhibitions include Lokaal 01, Antwerp, Belgium, 2016, La Permanence, Clermont-Ferrand, France, 2015, the MAC, Belfast, 2012 and the Lab Gallery, Dublin, 2010. Group exhibitions include Void Gallery, Derry, 2015, Tulca, Galway, 2015 and 2013, Acme Project Space, London, 2015, The Kilkenny Arts Festival, 2011, Eva, Limerick, 2010, Futures, RHA, Dublin, 2009.