Covid – a healing response

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of fountain in Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

Oh Covid – I think it affected us more than we know.  Hopefully now, the worst is over but there are so many people whose lives it changed forever.  On the island of Ireland, about 10,500 people died with Covid-19.  So many families still mourn.

But when we’re lost for words, sometimes an artwork or a poem can encapsulate the mood and raise our spirits.  I want to tell you about the art installation: “Lost Lace” by Miriam McConnon in the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin at the moment.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn at Lost Lace in the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

It began with the custom of Clooties (a Scottish word for ‘cloth’) where people tie strips of cloth to special trees.  Usually it’s a hawthorn tree, a ‘Raggedy Bush’, most likely growing near a holy well, and these sources of pure spring water have been places of healing for millennia, with ancient Celtic beliefs in nature and spirits being absorbed by the Christian churches, and the local sprites being replaced by various Christian saints.  Often the rags are dipped in the water and then tied to the tree in the hope that it will bring healing as the rags fade over time.

And actually it’s not solely a Celtic custom because it happens in other countries too, including in Cyprus, as we’re told by the artist Miriam McConnon.  You may remember her Tama installation (below) in Merrion Square some years ago.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of the Tama art installation by Miriam McConnon in Merrion Square, Dublin

This time McConnon has taken the idea of the Clootie and created an elegant and deeply moving art installation in the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin in memory of all those who lost their lives to Covid-19 in Ireland.  Over two years she folded 10,500 handkerchiefs into simple white roses and then last week, she laid them out around the fountain to form an intricate Irish Lace pattern in the grass.

I thought that the concept of the lace pattern was a beautiful metaphor, linking each individual and connecting them in their grief to the whole community. “The single rose is a symbol of devotion”, writes McConnon, “and this devotion becomes collective, signifying the personal and the national loss”.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of the artist Miriam McConnon installing Lost Lace in the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
Artist Miriam McConnon installing “Lost Lace” in the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

And the “Lost Lace” installation is a collaborative project with the poet Jessica Traynor who has written four beautiful poems based on messages submitted to the project’s website by people who had lost relatives and friends to Covid-19.

The installation was featured on RTE television (click here).  It remains in the Iveagh Gardens until next Sunday, the 23rd of October but the exhibition: “Lost Lace – The Drawings”  continues at the Olivier Cornet Gallery until the end of the month. The drawings give a rare glimpse into the artist’s practice and thought process leading up to the final installation.



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