For the past eight months I have been researching fluoride, officially known as hexafluorosilicic acid, which is quite a mouthful to say. In fact, when you say it to Google it doesn’t understand at all and comes up with many hilarious suggestions, some too rude to repeat! My husband was diagnosed with diabetes type 2 and I was doing some research about it when I came across an article about fluoride. I read something that changed my life forever, since then we only use well water for all our drinking and cooking. We had been drinking tap water from the mains for 5 years since we came back to Ireland from Spain. My husband had been a long distant walker, exceptionally fit, slim and healthy when we lived in Spain. Since moving to Ireland we both put on a lot of weight. In April this year my husband suffered a massive heart attack, he was soaking in the bath when it started. I am extremely happy to say that he is now sitting across from me looking incredibly well and slim and healthy.
From the research that I have done I feel confident in saying that exposure over a five year period, through ingestion and dermatological absorption and inhalation of fluoride, lead to my husbands heart attack aged 39, as well as him getting diabetes type 2. The Irish scientist Declan Wraugh produced this peer reviewed Public Health Investigation of Epidemiological data on Disease and Mortality in Ireland related to Water Fluoridation and Fluoride Exposure (download report pdf). Declan Wraugh has spent the past 2 years working on this totally out of his own pocket, while our government never funded one study about the health impacts of fluoride on the Irish public, when the onus was on them to do so. The Girl Against Fluoride has been doing an incredible job with her campaign bringing pubic awareness to this crucial issue. She has an upcoming court case against the Irish government about their policy of mandatory fluoridation of the public water supply. Since February 2013, Adrienne Murphy’s investigative journalism in Hot Press has been uncovering many urgent issues regarding the fluoride. It is interesting to note that none of these people were invited to the recent fluoride debate on Prime Time.
Since February 2013, I have been making artwork about fluoride, from both personal and scientific perspectives. I started the work subconsciously, then became very conscious about what I was doing through research. I will be showing some of this work in an upcoming exhibition with GUAC called Feasting on the Wind, in The Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon, Co. Clare. Opening on Friday 25th October at 8pm. The exhibition continues until 21st November. The work that will be on display is a collection of “Letters” made with ink and a quill on Japanese paper, combining drawing and writing. A dress that belonged to our daughter and hair from our son embroidered to spell out the words Sarin Nerve Gas Fluoride, this refers to the recent discovery about Syria and the hair samples that tested positive for sarin nerve gas, being indistinguishable from fluoride. If most people in Ireland had their hair tested for sarin nerve gas it would test positive. I feel very protective as a parent and this piece is about this.
Why should a frame make a piece of art worth much more than the additional cost of the frame? I can understand it can add a certain amount more than what it cost to frame, but it seems to be disproportionate. It is a lot to do with perception, I suppose. Yes, I would like to frame my drawings and paintings in beautifully made frames, the really expensive ones! Real wood, no wood grain effect chipboard that seems to be all you can get in any reasonably priced framers.
This fascination with “finished product” outweighing what is underneath the surface sweeps across many areas of life in the West. There is superficial idea of what beauty is, from our food chain to how we judge art and even people. This tendency to judge things by their outward appearances alone has tricked us, our “beautiful” shiny objects are breaking down, they are designed to, so we are caught in the cycle of buying the newer version. When we turn to use the old way it is no longer available to us because everyone is caught up in the cycle and the old way of doing things is obsolete.
Marketing is even taking over the way people talk about how to be an artist, how to sell yourself. I am concerned that if you are not already established as an artist, who are free to be eccentric, that artists by the hoops that they have to jump through to get any type of funding or exposure have to, by nature be a certain way inclined. I cant help but be reminded of those pieces of fruit or vegetables that are not the right uniform shape to get to the packaging stage of the production line being cast aside, and their irregular kind dying out.
I always made it through the system as one of those irregular pieces of fruit! I was lucky because I went to interviews with human beings and it wasn’t just about filling in allocated spaces in forms. People are all more than their C. V. more than the forms they fill in more then their 6 jpeg images. We have strange selection processes, I think we need to rethink the way we choose things and deciding what things are worth, not to do things the easiest way, because we all know what we loose when we just go for the easy option, we loose our integrity.
View of Bamboo Installation at “Vulnerable” by Marianne Slevin at The Secret Gallery October 2012
One of the rooms in the exhibition “Vulnerable” was this bamboo installation with text and the sound of a hidden Tibetan singing bowl. On every leaf I wrote one thought about myself that I found hard to say, they are my own suppressed feelings, growing up as a woman in Ireland. I had started my research for this work far away, both in time and physical distance, but in the end I had to look at myself, my own vulnerabilities. The biggest mistake I could make in presenting work about the mistreatment of women in other cultures would be to not look at my own culture and inevitably myself.
In order to be happy, humans have a built in bias toward what they are and do being better than others. I think we have this bias culturally as well as individually. Maybe if we are aware that this bias exists occasionally we can peer around its veil and see we are no better (or worse) than anyone else or any other culture.
What I found surprising was that my own suppressed thoughts and feelings were not just my own, but in many cases they were shared by other, and when I exposed myself in this light I found that others were quick to share their own inner feelings in return. It was a kind of fast forward exercise in honesty and sharing with others what you may only share with those close to you or maybe nobody at all.
There is so often an unrealistic striving for perfection in society which leaves us feeling unworthy and simply not good enough, this effects everything from aesthetics to emotions. We try to make sense and order out of just about anything! I wanted to make some work that made people feel good, by allowing people to see a glimpse of my own vulnerability. Maybe seeing it visually described brings home the enormity of the stuff we feel we have to carry around with us all the time, and perhaps it is so common that is should no longer be a weight on us.
Baby Doll with Goose Barnacles by Marianne Slevin 2012
Baby Doll reaching for Goose Barnacles by Marianne Slevin 2012
Baby Doll with Driftwood and Goose Barnacles by Marianne Slevin 2012
I play hard at being a visual artist, in fact I do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, there seems to be no off button ! Don’t get me wrong my play can get pretty serious, challenging and exhausting! Actually I started making art because I could express my more “heavy” and “intense” feelings without feeling like a freak, when I went to art college I met many intense characters! I tend to be a very serious person, though I can be very silly too! So my art tends to be very seriously playful! The work part of my practice is the other stuff that I have to do as an artist but I try to keep “work” out of the whole process of making art. We are obsessed with working, we work too hard and too much we should be living instead. Is this why to be a successful artist nowadays you have to spend way more time working on you career than making your art? I want to stop calling my art “my work”. Art for me is inventing a new visual language, shape-shifting between different disciplines, merging art and our everyday life and going beyond it into fantasy and looking back into the past, all at the same time. Art is attempting the impossible, failing, achieving something unexpected, balancing our own will with chance. It is playing with life and exploring the world around us. Art is working on a personal level and a universal level without interruption. Art for me is about transformation, the process of art is transformative and I choose materials that are not considered “valuable” and through the creative process I aim to transform the simple materials into something meaningful and inspiring, drawing attention to the creative process. I invite the viewer to take a journey, and perhaps to feel this too. Art for me is about waking up fully.
I don’t want the audience to marvel at my talent at drawing or painting because I am so precise, for me that gets in the way. I would like the viewer to come away from my art feeling something, maybe inspired to be creative and inventive and imaginative and playful themselves. I have not set goals or aims for my art, in how it effects the viewer, I do think about it from time to time but I cannot control its outcome. The whole process of of my art is a game of control and lack of control, intention and accident, logic and intuition, knowing when to push away or pull towards, so inevitably this sort of dialogue will continue when the art leaves my hands too. I think these transformative acts ripples out into the universe in many ways.
I found this doll and driftwood with goose barnacles hanging off it last February. It was on my Birthday, I was walking on Fanore beach, it felt very apt and kind of funny, to find the little doll. So I lifted up the wood and placed the doll standing up underneath it, as if reaching up to pick a goose barnacle. The doll is one legged but is able to feed herself, it is a very unlikely situation! As was the chances of each of us being alive as a human being today on this planet, I have heard some very mind blowing comparisons of how unlikely our existence was, the chances of each of us being here and alive today as humans were extremely small. All of these weird and wonderful thoughts filter into my art somehow, often in very unexpected ways. The journey into the unknown is what keeps me making art. I really like going to a place and finding stuff that I would have never imagined being there, and doing something creative with it. I love being nicely surprised by the whole art making process.
Work in Progress, studio, Marianne Slevin, 2012
I am not one for any kind of dogma, so I do not think that Artists should have to make art in any particular way at all. For my own practice I see it like this: The ship is going down and what am I going to do about it? I do not want to make art for art’s sake alone, nor do I want to make art for artists alone. I want to make my tiny offering of art for the planet, and multitude of ecosystems and communities that live on this great whirling rock in space.
Two books on art have changed my thinking more then any others, the first one was “The unpainted Landscape” essays and texts, by Simon Cutts. The other was “Conversations Before the End of Time” by Suzi Gablik. These books shifted my practice that had been more about the modernist ideal of art for arts sake, towards a more socially engaged way of working. In the words of Suzi Gablik, “…for such artists, vision is not defined by the disembodied eye, as we have been trained to believe. Vision is a social practice that is rooted in the whole of the being.” from The Nature of Beauty in Contemporary Art, New Renaissance Magazine.
Currently, I am making an art work with muffin cases and another with maps folded into paper boats. On the paper cases I am writing different things that would change the world for the better, in my opinion. I would also like to write other people’s wishes for a better world. If you would like to send them into the comments, I would write them down and dip them in wax as part of an artwork. Happy dreaming of a better world!
Photograph by Marianne Slevin, Liscannor Pier, Co Clare 2012
Lately I have been writing up so many proposals and having to condense my art into a few words that it has done something funny to my brain. I was also influenced by a TED talk by Sebastian Wernicke who condensed 1,000 TED talks into 6 words. This was a funny exercise so I thought I would try to do it with art. There are so many different sorts of art but what holds them all together what is the common denominator?
New ways of seeing the world brought to its final conclusion could be seen as altering terminal relations.
Altering: because an artist endeavors to create different and personal ways of seeing the world we live in.
Terminal: because an artist challenges limitations, boundaries and changes endings, and the final outcome of things. In this context artists challenge preconceived notions about reality, breaking up static and fixed ideas through their inventions and creations.
Relations: because artists explore the relationships between things, whether through materials and or concepts. Nothing exists purely on its own, but is a stream of interconnected relationships.
ATR doesn’t spell ART but artist’s always see things differently so why would it!
I would be delighted to hear your thoughts on this matter, so please write a comment with your words on what art is, in a few words. Try 3 words!
The Mycelium and Earth Regeneration Project, ink and pigment on paper map, 2011 Marianne Slevin
If someone was ever to ask me, “what Art College I should apply to? or where should I live if I want to give my art career a really good chance?” I would say go to where there is a vibrant art scene, great galleries and museums and a lot of artists. That is if you care about being successful as a recognized artist. For a wonderful Christmas present James my husband gave me two mammoth books, Vitamin P2 and Vitamin D by Phaidon, new perspectives in Painting and Drawing. I was not entirely surprised to see where the Artists lived, nearly all of them live in major cities particularly New York and other American cities, even if they were born somewhere else. Another example of this is the artist Katie Holten, who is one of my favorite contemporary artists. She grew up in rural Ireland and now has a very successful art career in New York.
What are we to do about this? We cant all up sticks and leave to go to a metropolises seeking fame and fortune! One thing we can do is to create our own mini vibrant art scene around us, by joining others for reinforcement. Bringing our creative skills outside our practice as well, inventing new ways of working within a rural community. I have just joined the Artist’s group called Ground Up Artists Collective. These are a group of around 20 Artists who have their own practices but come together as a collective for art projects within the rural community as well is galleries. I am really looking forward to taking part in some new diverse works. The Altruism Movement T.A.M. is also starting to come together again and we will be starting to do some collaborative projects very soon again.
Another thing we can do is realize that while it might be harder to gain recognition in rural places as an Artist the rural is a wonderful and inspiring place to make art work, and the more Artists that stay the more creative a place it will be for everyone. However I do intend to visit cities more to create more openings to show my work to a larger audience. Starting with Dublin where I am also looking forward to seeing the work of Rivane Neuenschwander in The Irish Museum of Modern Art, then London then who knows! What do you Think?