Art has the power to go straight to the heart of the matter. The determination and drive for some artists to develop and stick at their practice does not always pay off.
It can have many twists and turns, life can get in the way. Many invisible hands help or hinder the artists along. I first met Alison Lowry when she was a participant on Craft NI’s business development programme. As a qualified business advisor from my years working in the enterprise sector, I was delivering the finance training.
The Portadown exhibition was a forerunner for Alison Lowry to being commissioned by The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin to make work which eventually became ‘(A) dressing our Hidden Truths, an Artistic Response to the Legacy of Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries.’
Alison had recently graduated from Belfast School of Art and had an obsession with glass. With son number three on his way, she was determined develop her career, refusing to give in where others might have buckled.
She was making beautiful christening gowns encased in glass as well as birth certificates in glass. For a while it seemed as if she got trapped in production mode.
However, with a collaboration on pain with artist Jayne Cherry, exhibited at The University of Atypical, she took an artistic leap. She broke out of production mode and allowed her imagination to run free.
Exhibitions in Framewerks, the William Wallace residency in London with R space Gallery Lisburn produced some amazing glass armour and swords. Next came the well-funded opportunity to have a solo show at Millennium Court Art Centre in Portadown.
Please help...takes 2 seconds.....I'm calling for the government to IMMEDIATELY to give adopted people the right to access their birth certificates. Will you join me by signing this petition? #MotherandBabyHomes https://t.co/91ewMfNmwk via @UpliftIRL— alison lowry (@AlisonGlassArt) January 14, 2021
This gave Alison the space and expertise to expand her ability for her art to take up space. The christening gowns became 3D and as there was much talk about the Magdalene Laundries at the time, much of the emotion of the early findings was poured into the Portadown exhibition.
The collaboration with Jayne Cherry became a performance piece where Jayne would walk in glass shoes to conjure up the feeling of living with domestic violence; of having to tip-toe across glass metaphorically in order to not incite violence. Unfortunately that feeling is still felt by many in our society.
The Portadown exhibition was a forerunner for Alison Lowry to being commissioned by The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin to make work which eventually became ‘(A) dressing our Hidden Truths, an Artistic Response to the Legacy of Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries.’ After meeting women who had survived these places, Alison spent time developing a body of work that allowed visitors to contemplate what happened.
When I visited, you could see and feel people emotionally responding to the art. There was a room filled with ghostly glass christening robes, glass scissors with hair to comment on the women whose hair was cut on entry to the institutions.
The response to the exhibition was overwhelming. Just before Christmas, Alison got the news that the Museum has purchased the exhibition for its own collection. Jayne Cherry’s performance, now a video piece was also shown in the National Museum and for me was the best piece of performance art I saw that year. This piece is now in the Arts Council Northern Ireland collection.
Winding forward to Northern Ireland's own report on this issue recently published, Alison and Jayne have been commissioned to make work specific to the local experience. If you know of anyone who might like to share their story, they can email Alison direct.
In the meantime, Alison has not been resting on her laurels: She has an exhibition planned for the Golden Thread Gallery in August of this year.