Alison Lowry: (A) Dressing Our Hidden Truths is a profound and moving artistic response to the incarceration, forced labour and brutality that were unspoken parts of Ireland’s legacy of state and church supported institutionalisation. The exhibition also explores the ongoing hidden truths of rape culture, consent and domestic violence.
The exhibition will run until May 2020 at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks.
Alison Lowry is an award winning, internationally reknowned glass artist from Co. Down. One of the most powerful elements within the exhibition is an installation called ‘Home Babies’ – a stark comment on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. It consists of nine pâte de verre (glass paste) Christening Robes accompanied by a monologue of the names of 796 children, mostly infants, who died and were buried in an unused septic tank.
Pointedly and profoundly
According to the Director of the National Museum, Lynn Scarff, there is no artist in Ireland or the UK working in glass who so pointedly and profoundly comments on the political, social and emotional fallout from such discomforting topics as those explored in this new exhibition.
“It is not easy to face this traumatic past,” she said. “As cultural institutions it is our role to provide the space for exploration and discussion of all aspects of our history, in a respectful and inclusive way.”
The installation combines both art and artefacts, including an apron inspired by the Magdalene Laundries, photos of women incarcerated or ‘participating’ in Corpus Christi processions, artistic representations of the financial value of the indentured labour, responses by survivors and the apology from the State to Magdalene survivors, read by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Alison also collaborates with other artists, including Úna Burke, who has designed pieces for Lady Gaga. Their joint installation is called A New Skin, which explores sexual violence, rape culture and consent.
She also works with performance artist Jayne Cherry on a video installation called 35 I Can’ts, which explores the distress and entrapment of domestic violence. It is based on the statistic that a woman will be assaulted on average 35 times before she reports the abuse.
Finally, Alison collaborates with poet Connie Roberts, whose poem Cardigan and reimagining of the popular song Weile Weile Waile, speak to the inhumanity of the institutions being explored. Connie, along with her 14 siblings were all sent to Industrial schools.