Sovereignty and Oil of the Falkand Islands reopen old colonial wounds.

Mount Tumbledown near Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Picture via Flickr by Donald Morrison.

Mount Tumbledown near Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Picture via Flickr by Donald Morrison.

Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman,  accused Britain of deploying a submarine large enough to carry nuclear weapons in the South Atlantic at the recent nuclear summit meeting in Seoul, South Korea. “These are unfounded, baseless insinuations,” said Nick Clegg the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister, according to The Huffington Post.

The contention between Argentina and Britain dates back to the 1982 war between the two countries over the sovereignty of the Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in the south Atlantic which lie east of Argentina and are geographically closer to that country than the United Kingdom. A total of 907 casualties were reported in the war which lasted 74 days. 649 casualties listed from Argentina and 255 British Servicemen and 3 Falkland Island civilians were listed from the UK casualty list.

The ownership of the Islands has been a contentious issue since the 18th century. Although the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 confirmed Spain’s control of South American territories, including the Falklands, with ownership then being transferred to Argentina; In 1833 the United Kingdom officially claimed and has retained ownership of the Islands since then.

In recent years the water around the Falklands has brought the issue of sovereignty back into the headlines. Oil was discovered off the Falklands in May 2010. There are 4 main players in the oil exploration off the Islands according to The Telegraph: Desire Petroleum, Rockhopper, Falkland Oil and Gas and Borders and Southern all based in the UK.

Argentina threatened legal action against any business who commences drilling for oil off the coast of the Falklands, according to The Daily Mail. and Metro.UK.

The country’s foreign minister Hector Timerman said it would pursue legal action against firms exploring for oil around the islands and any other companies who do business with them.

The British Government hit back, accusing Argentina’ of “illegal intimidation,” according to BBC News and The Huffington Post.

There are some who believe that the Falklands should be owned by Argentina. In February 2012 Peruvian President Ollanta Humala expressed his  support on behalf of the Peruvian people and government, for the “legitimate rights of Argentina’s sovereignty,” according to Peru This Week.

Prince William completed military duty on the Islands towards the end of March this year and the British Navy sent its largest warship to the area, which increased Argentina’s interest in the Islands, as well as increasing tensions between the two nations, and reopened old colonial wounds.

61 percent of Britons say that the United Kingdom should “protect the Falkland Islands at all costs,” according to an ICM/Guardian poll.

The population of the Falkland Islands was estimated to be 3,140 by a CIA report in May 2008, with English being the predominate Language and 67.2% of the population being Christian.

According to the Falkland Island Census Statistics of 2006,  approximately 70% of the population is of British descent, due to Scottish and Welsh immigration to the islands. A few Islanders are of French, Gibraltarian ancestry. Some Scandinavians settled in the area due to Norwegian whalers operating off the shores. There is also a small minority of South American, mainly Chileans. Recently many people from Saint Helena came to find work and there are a few Argentine residents.

It is important to note here that there were no indigenous people historically located on the Islands when the English arrived in the 17th century, although it is believed that Patagonian Indians could have visited using canoes. (See page 8 of the 2006 Census to get a full breakdown of population by country of birth)

Read this story on storify.com

The Clothes Hanger

It was an old almost antique looking wooden clothes hanger, the Wanderer Resort Motel inscribed on one side and  Jeckyll Island Georgia on the other. I’ve never been to Georgia.

Intrigued that we even possessed a clothes hanger from a resort so “special” its name belonged on a wooden coat hanger, I began my search.

According to Cardcow.com The Wanderer Resort Motel on Jeckyll Island Georgia is the, “Largest and most luxurious resort motel on Georgia’s Golden Isles. Miles of beach, protected yacht harbor, airstrip, golf course, 2 swimming pools, 2 wading pools, just off Route #17 near Brunswick, Georgia.”

Nice to know, but doesn’t answer all of my questions, where is Jeckyll Island being one of them.

Turns out that Jeckyll Island is off the southern coast of Georgia, the US state. According to an article in Wikipedia,

“Jekyll Island is one of only four Georgia barrier islands that feature a paved causeway to access the island by car. It features 5,700 acres (23 km2) of land, including 4,400 acres (18 km2) of solid earth and a 200-acre (0.81 km2) Jekyll Island Club Historic District. The rest is tidal marshlands, mostly on the island’s western shore. The island measures about 7 miles (11 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, has 8 miles (13 km) of wide, flat beaches on its east shore with sand packed hard enough for easy walking or biking, and boasts 20 miles (32 km) of hiking trails.”

Historically the Island was home to the Native American  Muskogian tribes, who were indigenous to the south-eastern states of America. They called the area their chiefdom of Guale.

The first Europeans arrived from Spain in 1510 and renamed it Isla De Ballenas or  Whale Island. In 1562 French explorer Jean Ribault claimed the Island for the French and renamed it  Ille de la Somme. Shortly afterward Ribault was executed by the Spanish and so began the war between the two colonies along the Georgia and Florida coasts.

The English arrived in 1681, allying themselves with the Cherokee, Creek, and Yuchi tribes, and armed them with English weapons. The Spanish were driven out by 1702.

General James Oglethorpe established Georgia as a colony in 1733 and renamed it in honour of his friend Sir Joseph Jeckyll; An excellent speaker of the House of Commons and a Whig, the most conservative party in England at the time.

Jekyll was born in 1663 and died in 1738 due to  “a mortification in the bowels,” whatever that is, on second thought, I don’t want to know.

It was his donation of $600, ” to fund the colony at Jekyll Island,” according to Wikipedia, that resulted in having the Island named after him. Another notable fact about Sir Joseph Jeckyll; he thoroughly disliked intoxication and spoke so adamantly against it in the House of Commons, “which annoyed the public so much that he was forced to have a guard at his house at all times.”

Oglethorpe, the man who established Georgia as a colony appointed William Horton to set up a military post. Horton made Jeckyll his home and by 1738 had established a profitable plantation. By the time of his death in 1748 he had already lost and rebuilt his home and the plantation due to Spanish attacks.

By 1800 the property was back in the hands of the French. Christophe du Bignon, who had left France to escape the French revolution made the area his home. DuBignon was also the man who introduced slavery to Jeckyll island, which of course, made his plantation that much more profitable than in the era of William Horton. The main crop at this time was cotton.

“On November 28, 1858, fifty years after the importation of slaves to the United States was made illegal, the ship The Wanderer landed on Jekyll Island with 465 slaves. This was the next-to-last successful shipment of slaves to American soil from Africa.,” according to Wikipedia, on November 28, 1858, “When the Wanderer reached Jekyll Island, Georgia from Africa, approximately 409 of the enslaved Africans had survived.” The captain and crew were prosecuted but the courts failed to win a conviction.

The Wanderer was built in Port Jefferson, New York  in 1857 as a pleasure craft yacht for Colonel John Johnson. The Wanderer was one of the fastest ships of the day. Johnson sold the Wanderer to William C. Corrie, who was a partner with a wealthy businessman and cotton planter, Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar, from Savannah, Georgia.

Lamar hired Corrie to transport slaves from Africa. Corrie managed conversion of the Wanderer so as to enable it to carry a large number of slaves. Corrie and Lamar were both opposed to the legal  restrictions on importing slaves, which hampered their trade significantly.

According to a Wikipedia article,

“The Wanderer was returned to New York to undergo preparation for a long voyage. Some observers accused the shipyard of preparing it as a slave ship. The ship was inspected and cleared on its voyage out. Public rumors of the ship’s being involved in the slave trade persisted and were permanently associated with her name.”

How sad that a “pleasure craft” ended up becoming a slave ship?

Wikipedia continues,

“In his ship’s log, Corrie noted arriving at  Benguela in present-day Angola on October 4, 1858. Wanderer took on 487 slaves at this port on the Congo River. After a six-week return voyage across the Atlantic, the Wanderer arrived at Jekyll Island, Georgia around sunset on November 28, 1858. The tally sheets and passenger records showed that 409 slaves survived the passage to arrive at Jekyll Island, which was owned by John and Henry DuBignon, Jr., who conspired with Lamar. These figures present a slightly higher mortality rate than the estimated average of 12 percent during the illegal trading era. Hoping to evade arrest, Lamar had the slaves shipped to markets in Savannah and Augusta, Georgia; South Carolina and Florida. As the federal government investigated, news of the slave ship raised outrage in the North. On the other hand, Southerners continued to press for re-establishment of importing slaves. The federal government tried Lamar and his conspirators three times for piracy, but was unable to get a conviction. It failed to convince the jury of a connection between Lamar and the ship.”

DuBignon and the Wanderer were connected. He made a fortune out of using slaves to farm his cotton. Lamar and the Wanderer supplied him with these slaves.

My last question is; Why would anyone name a motel after a Slave ship? Is it a case of silent racism and pride in being slave owners? Or like the movie Amistad, does the name The Wanderer signify hope and strength to overcome hardship?

I lied, I have one more question; How the heck did I end up with this hanger anyway? Hopefully no one in my family has connections with The Wanderer, Lamar, Corrie or DuBignon, that would be sad, but also another part of history. Hopefully this wooden hanger is a left over from the previous owners of this house. Maybe they visited the motel and brought the hanger home as a momento.

Either way, that is the story of the wooden hanger I found today inscribed with the words The Wanderer Resort Motel, Jeckyll Island, Georgia. Who knew a hanger would be so interesting.

The Wanderer, The second-to-last slave ship to bring slaves from Africa to America.

A Terrible Beauty

The Irish Workhouse Center, Portumna

“They used to call them blackberry men, because they ate the blackberries off the bushes,” South East Galway Integrated Rural Development Manager Ursula Marmion explains, “Knights of the road, itinerant workers.”

Blackberry men, knights of the road, paupers or inmates, whatever you want to call them, they were the residents of the workhouse; a part of Irish history that has left memories of dire poverty.

“It was a system to gather up people who were wandering around the place, didn’t have any work or didn’t have anyone to look after them,” local historian and author John Joe Conwell said.

“The idea was to feed them, clothe them and give them a bit of work, hence the name workhouse,” Conwell explained.

An Irish Workhouse Center in Portumna, County Galway wants to preserve the workhouse’s stories and retell them to visitors.

The goal is, “To tell the story of the Irish workhouse, because that hasn’t been done very comprehensively,” Marmion said and added, “It’s kind of a period of history we just choose to forget about, because I suppose it is just so painful for people.”

Many people committed crimes intentionally to go to jail rather than go into a workhouse Conwell said. “You would be better fed in jail than you would in the workhouse,” he added.

The concept of developing a workhouse center explaining the history of Irish workhouses seemed outlandish initially.

“At the beginning I think they (local community) thought we were all a bit mad,” said Marmion and added, “The local community has really bought into this. Just yesterday, we had a massive clean-up of the site. We had almost forty people working here,” Marmion said.

The goal is to prepare the Irish Workhouse Center Portumna for a “soft opening on July 1,” said Marmion.

Visitors to the Irish Workhouse Center Portumna on July 1 can expect a visitor’s center telling the history of the Irish workhouse. The history according to Marmion is interesting.

“The workhouse sort of embodies the story of the destitute poor of that time,” Marmion said. “We still have Portumna castle where the landlord lived, so you had two sides of the coin,” she said.

The other “side of the coin,” is the painful part. Wealth and poverty co-existed in towns like Portumna during the famine years.

Local landlords during famine years were required to pay for the workhouse keep of people who had a valuation of less than four pounds per year.

“As a result the landlords moved out people, assisted immigration,” Conwell explained and added, “It was cheaper to get assisted immigration, give them a few pounds, pay their fare.”

The population of the town of Portumna and surrounding lands plummeted as a result of immigration and starvation during the years 1845 to 1850, when the potato blight was at its’ peak.

“We have records of boat loads of paupers leaving Portumna for Liverpool to sail for America,” Conwell added and said, “They were the lucky ones.”

Funding for the workhouse renovation has come primarily from government agencies and within the local community.

  “One day it will be good to remember these things.” 

Virgil’s Aeneid

“We’ve got funding from Galway Rural Development, Galway County Council, The Department of the Environment, The Heritage Council,” Marmion said.

Money has become of primary concern at present due to the recession in Ireland.

“To date we have spent 312,000 Euro on the project,” Marmion said. “To get it up and going we are looking at raising the guts of three million here,” she said and added, “The money is very tight here with people.”

Preservation of the seven buildings on over eight acres is a labor of love for both Marmion and Conwell.

“We have a good team,” Marmion said. “It’s a joy for me. I love coming to work everyday. It’s such a nice project to be working on,” she added.

According to Conwell the Irish Workhouse Center in Portumna County Galway will become, “an integral part,” of Irish descendants abroad tracing their ancestry and understanding why their ancestors  left.

“I am getting a lot of inquiries about people abroad who have traced their ancestry to here,” Conwell said and added, “We are trying to encourage people to come back and trace their ancestry and the workhouse has a role there too.”

With an estimated 70 million in the Irish Diaspora Conwell and Marmion want to get the story of the Irish Workhouse Center to as many Irish descendants as they can.

“We have a huge amount of nameless people whose descendants are still alive around the world and we’d love to be able to help them,” Conwell said.

The launch of the Irish Workhouse Center website, irishworkhousecentre.ie, on June 21 will provide the 70 million Irish Diaspora an opportunity to learn the story of the Irish workhouse, assist financially and help with ongoing preservation efforts through the Friends of the Irish Workhouse Center program on the website.

South East Galway Integrated Rural Development was set up by members of the community in 1997 to promote, support and engage in local development initiatives that benefit the area. Managing  rural bus services, providing training for people returning to work or trying to start their own businesses, tourist information and developing tourism product and social housing. The company’s flagship project is the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna.

A Natural Edge

Renae Edge, Artist and Photographer

Norwalk Community College Art Professor Renae Edge, like her art, is “a flower (that) did not go to school to be a flower.”

“The beautiful things,” she says, “are the things that are growing without anybody telling them what to do.”

Her parents never asked Edge ‘What do you want to do?’ when she was growing up.  “I wasn’t given any kind of direction at all.”

Raised in an artistic family in Atlanta, Ga., Edge said that her father was a frustrated commercial artist.

“He would go into the woods, find a piece of rotten wood and hang it up on the wall. I grew up with that.” All of her siblings, a half brother, half sister and a full sister are either crafty or artistic.

Edge, (yes it is her real name) did not consider art as a career after graduating from high school. She believed teaching or the army were her options. Would she have still been an artist if she had joined the army? Edge doesn’t know if she believes in destiny.

“Choices present us with different directions, but I can’t say for sure whether the directions take us to a different place or to the same place,” Edge said.

Edge’s height and weight were below the 1981 US Army requirements of five foot tall and 110 pounds. Instead she enrolled in the Southeastern Center for Photographic Arts in Atlanta, Ga. from 1981 to 1983. From there she went on to the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., graduating with a B.A. in Art History and Drama in 1987. After receiving an M.A in Communication Arts in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1989, Edge honed her artistic abilities in photography at the International Center for Photography in New York, according to her website.

Edge has been working as a Professor at NCC for the last 17 years, teaching Theater, Public Speaking, Film, Interdisciplinary Courses and Art. She worked in 36 other jobs before coming to NCC. From landscaping to driving bulldozers, professional theater to secretary, “I’ve done it all,” she said, “You’ve got to pay the bills.”

Edge’s artwork focuses on natural subjects such as energy, air, and flowers. When asked if she tries to make the invisible visible Edge said, “Of course, (artists) are expressing what’s inside, so what’s inside is invisible.”

What’s inside” can also be sad and painful. In Edge’s Infertility series she compares the “desperation, pain and humiliation of infertility” to the blooming and then withering of an amaryllis flower in her home. The photographs of the plant, as depicted on renaeedge.com, resemble the inner flesh of the womb.

Edge struggled to accept her inability to get pregnant, “It was a horrible feeling,” she said, “I just cried and cried,” Edge found the photographing of the bloom and then decay of the flower therapeutic.

“I realized when I got into those amaryllis flowers, that was what my flesh looked like,” Edge said, “I watched (the flowers) decaying and I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is what is happening to me. This flesh, its withering in there!” Edge failed to become pregnant despite attempts with fertility treatments.

The Ribbon Series and Energy Series also depicted on Renaeedge.com are further explorations in photographing the invisible. Light and wind make grosgrain ribbons take on the form of surreal landscapes in the Ribbon Series and the grosgrain ribbons again are featured in Energy, which Edge says depicts the colors she sees during her practice of qi-gong exercises and meditation.

Other work featured on Edge’s website are Morning Glories and Orchids, the latter are to be displayed at the Integrated Health Center in Fairfield, CT.

Her self published Me and My Cell Phone documents photos taken with a cell phone she owned from 2007 to 2009. At first Edge said holding this cell phone was like, “holding someone else’s dirty underwear.” The book was Edge’s attempt to learn how to make a photo book. What it became however was a pictorial documentation of the first two years after her marriage had ended. ” It was a healing time for me,” Edge said.

Edge’s art “got a whole lot better after the divorce,” Edge said. The divorce de-cluttered her life. With no televisions to distract her and the large furniture in the house now gone, Edge was left with a positive outlook and more time and space for her art.

“Energy has energy,” she said, “If you get rid of crap, you have a whole new perspective and it is a much more whole way of living.”

Edge and her ex-husband remained amicable. Edge’s husband told her after the divorce, “You finally became the person you always were.”

Most recently, Edge has received attention for her One Sky: Gifts from the Crow Indian Reservation Exhibition which ran from Nov. 10, 2010 to Jan. 19, 2011 at NCC. Her connection with Harriet Little Owl, who along with Harriet’s husband, Ettinge Little Owl, showed Edge and others around the reservation.

It was Edge’s finding of a feather that shocked Harriet and consequently evoked deeper conversation between the two women.

Edge found an eagle feather in a spiritual place called Pretty Eagle’s Point. “I didn’t even know what I had in my hand.” Edge said. According to Harriet Little Owl, because Edge was a white woman, this connection with the eagle was very rare.

Harriet Little Owl, “believes the white people are star people, we have come down from the stars to take care of the earth and we’re doing a really crappy job right now,” Edge said.

Her experience with the Crow Indian people resulted not only in her exhibition, but also Edge was given a Crow Indian name by Harriet Little Owl. Harriet named Edge,

“Bah-good-kuch-shi-wish.” In English it means, “She who helps children.”

It was also her experience at the Crow Indian Reservation that deepened her affinity with animals. Edge has been known to crawl on her belly though snow covered marshes, her cellphone in hand, to photograph nature and animals. Although she bought a Konica SLR because it fit into her small hands, she leaves it at home when she ventures out into the woods and on nature treks.

“I don’t take the SLR camera with me on my treks, only the cell phone,” Edge said. “When I’m out in the marshes and woods, I want to be IN them,  not observing them,” she said.

When asked what advice she would give to young artists Edge refers to a sticky note on her computer. “What do you like?” What Edge likes is to see the beauty in all that surrounds her, “I absolutely despise photography the way that photography is now,” Edge said. “Photography now is all about, ‘Look at the ugliness we’ve made.’ I hate that,” Edge said, and added “Life is beautiful.”

“We are all going to end up in the same place; dead,” Edge said, “It is up to us to choose what road we take to get there. Do we choose one filled with joy and gratitude or do we choose one filled with fear and anger?”

Edge has had exhibitions of her artwork in Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and New Orleans.

Photographs used with permission of the artist. The titles and copyrights are:

Ribbons60429021c  copyright 2006 (left)

Infertility #18  copyright 2000 (right)

A Portrait of the Artist

Jim FitzPatrick, Celtic Artist.

The self-professed “eccentric voice that questions everything,” Jim Fitzpatrick, is far more than a Celtic artist.

 

We know him for his beautiful artwork depicting heroes, gods and goddesses of Irish mythology and his album cover artwork for Thin Lizzy, Led Zepplin, Donovan and T Rex to name a few. Fitzpatrick is also a writer, photographer and historian. The portrait of this artist is as complex and intricate as the Celtic art he creates.

 

Fitzpatrick grew up in Skerries, north of Dublin. The grandson of Thomas Fitzpatrick, the Victorian illustrator who produced drawings and cartoons for ‘Punch’ and ‘The New York Gaelic American.’

 

The recent passing of a grand aunt promoted a cousin to gift Fitzpatrick some of his grandfather’s work.

 

“The proportions were exactly the same as mine. Big loud sort of baroque Victorian borders around a centrally placed religious theme,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

Fitzpatrick’s first painting was of a yacht sinking out at sea, struck by lightening. Then four or five years old, Fitzpatrick was trans-fixed by ball lightening which hovered at the mast and then dissipated. He tried to capture the scene in his first painting using his own father’s paints and brushes.

 

Fitzpatrick’s talent grew during many bouts of childhood illnesses that left him bedridden. A coughing fit resulted in an extended hospital stay and a diagnosis of T.B. His mother and aunt told him stories about heroes from Irish mythology during this two-year ordeal. American comics also helped to pass the time whilst he recovered at Peamount Sanatorium.

 

Fitzpatrick progressed into advertising and remained there for over seven years, “enjoying every minute of it,” he said and made an excellent living. At one point he was making more than the president of Ireland.

 

Once described as “the most eloquent Irish poet to ever wield a paint brush,” it was not a paintbrush, but a process called silk-screening which brought Fitzpatrick into public view.

 

In 1968 Fitzpatrick self financed and produced over a thousand posters of Alberta Korda’s now famous photograph of Argentinean born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

 

Fitzpatrick met Guevara in 1962. Fitzpatrick was working as a barman in a hotel in Killkee, County Clare. Guevara was on an enforced stopover at Shannon airport.

 

“When he walked into the bar I recognized him immediately as I was a fervent admirer of Guevara,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

The two conversed, the meeting engrained in Fitzpatrick’s memory. Guevara was surprised that anyone recognized him.

 

“Not only did I recognize him, but I also recognized his bodyguards, the Cuban revolutionaries Willy and Benjamin, who later died in Bolivia by his side,” Fitzpatrick said.

Guevara explained his Irish background; his grandmother was Lynch from Cork. He did not know a great deal about Irish history except that Ireland was the first country to break free from the British Empire.

 

“I was more curious about the Irish-Argentinean connection”, Fitzpatrick said.

 

To Che Guevara, the Irish-Argentinean communities were wealthy conservatives.  “Beggars on Horseback”, Fitzpatrick said. “Polo playing Gauchos”, Guevara called them according to Fitzpatrick.

 

“I was so struck by him that years later I produced a very strange quasi-psychedelic drawing of him to commemorate his arrival in Bolivia,” Fitzpatrick said.

The silk screening process Fitzpatrick implemented in his treatment of the original Korda photo captured something in the public psyche and catapulted Fitzpatrick’s artistic career.

 

Fitzpatrick believes the Che Guevara image has come to symbolize martyrdom, which he says, “is an unpopular word nowadays.”

 

In popular culture the Che image has appeared in one of The Black Eyed Peas music videos, comedian Ricky Gervais emulated the silk-screened pose for promotion of his comedy tour ‘Politics.’ More recently, American artist Shepherd Fairey, uses Fitzpatrick’s Che image to promote the ‘Progress’ image of Barack Obama.

 

“A professor from Stanford overlapped the image of Obama and Che and compared them. The difference in the eyes, the elevated gaze,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

The image is not popular in every part of the world.

 

“It was banned in Poland and they can pull you off the streets in China if you wear a

t-shirt with the image on it. For these people it has come to represent the old order,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

The Irish government is assisting Fitzpatrick to attain full copyright of the Che image. Currently he has copyright by default. Once the issue of copyright has been resolved, profits from the sale of the poster will go to charity.

 

Fitzpatrick vowed to draw and paint what he wanted to and left his lucrative career in advertising. Work from his Celtia series and Thin Lizzy kept him afloat.

 

The Celtia series, his best-known work, motivates continued interest in Celtic Mythology. Fitzpatrick’s childhood, partly based in County Clare, enthused the youth with visions of Irish myths. His aunt would leave a bowl of milk out for the fairies every night.

 

“All these strange habits, at the age of 12 or 13, I was totally absorbed by them,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

The Children of Lir was “drilled” into him he said, and begins to recite the beginning of the myth in perfect Irish.

 

Fitzpatrick imagined the Celtia series initially in Japanese Manga art style. In May of 1973 a vision changed that decision.

 

Described on the artist’s website, the vision is terrifying and negative. From this vision, the most intricate, bold and unique Irish artwork evolved.

 

“Unfortunately it was my one and only vision,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

The artwork in the Celtia series is influenced by the Book of Kells, the work of British artist Aubrey Beardsley, Czechoslovakian artist Alphonse Mucha, Austrian artist Gustav Klimpt, and Japanese artists Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Utagawa Hirosighe. The list displays Fitzpatrick’s awareness and respect for international artists.

 

The artist’s own personal favorites among the many beautiful images from Celtia are Morpheus the Druid, Diarmuid and Ghrainne and Conann and the Fianna.

 

In 1977, Fitzpatrick moved his wife and three children to America. By 1997 Fitzpatrick was back in Ireland. Paper Tiger, the company that had commissioned him to do Erin Saga, The Book of Conquests and The Silver Arm had gone into liquidation. Fitzpatrick had earned nothing from his collaboration with the company.

 

“My son loves the work,” he said, “He loves the books, the way I write. He wants to pin me down and I’ve kind of agreed that I’m going to spend the first three months of 2010 writing the third volume. Once he has me, I’m hooked,” and added, “I’ll be doing the painting as well.”

 

Fitzpatrick hopes that the Celtia series has added to the growing interest in Irish Mythology.

 

“It used to annoy the hell out of me when I was in history in school, that the entire history of Ireland up to the historical age was simply dismissed as fantasy. Only one paragraph in the history books about it!,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

“The earlier stuff is the richest part of our heritage,” he said and continued the history lesson describing the five invasions of Ireland. The first inhabitants were moors, “not quite the lily white Irish.” The international influence does not end there.

 

“Your classic Irish word ‘shamrock’ is not an Irish word at all. It is a Berber word meaning plant with three foils,” he said.

 

Fitzpatrick celebrates the “extraordinary cultural heritage” of Ireland.

 

“It is rubbish to say that we are all one species,”  Fitzpatrick said and added,“The Celtic race, people don’t understand how widespread they were.”

 

 

Religion loops and threads its way into the dialogue. Fitzpatrick recalls a priest who compared a painting of the Virgin Mary on clouds to a painting of the Celtic goddess Eire done by Fitzpatrick himself. Initially Fitzpatrick was appalled when the priest pointed out that the artwork showed religious iconography influence.

 

“He was quite right. It seeps into you and I was unaware of the influence until he pointed it out,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

Fitzpatrick is deeply affected by all the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.

 

“Artists understand the meaning of loss,” he said. “We have lost something beautiful with all the scandals, the artists will rescue it. The Catholic Church gave us a three dimensional world full of beautiful imagery that seeped into us,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

Fitzpatrick acknowledges all the good the church has done too.

 

“The church kept us alive during Imperialistic British rule, we do owe them something. They betrayed us though, we didn’t betray them.” Fitzpatrick said and mentions Catholic martyr Oliver Plunkett .

 

“Its people like that, dying for people like me. I’m staying,” he said.

 

Fitzpatrick’s relationship with Thin Lizzy front man, Phil Lynott was a close one. Both were abandoned by their fathers, and raised in homes surrounded by women.

 

Fitzpatrick called “Phillip” his “best friend.”

 

“The Philip that I remember to this day was full of life and energy; black, beautiful and charismatic; kind, gentle and generous,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

Surrounded by powerful strong-minded women in his formative years, Fitzpatrick pays homage to these beautiful women in his current project, Mostly Women, inspired by the beautiful women he saw walking down Grafton Street in Dublin.

 

“I thought I should paint them,” Fitzpatrick said and is considering returning to the Celtia style, but using real women in his artwork.

 

Jim Fitzpatrick’s dream is to find a gallery in County Clare to house his collection, paying homage to another powerful woman in his life, his mother. Clare is his mother’s home county.

 

Jim Fitzpatrick sells prints of his paintings directly from his website; http://www.jimfitzpatrick.ie/

Clifden 2012

All photos courtesy of Connemara Publications © 2011 – visit: clifden2012.org

Celebrating 200 years of the Wild West

 

Almost two hundred years ago Galway native John D’Arcy moved his wife and three children to a remote and isolated landscape that would later inspire writers, poets and painters.

 

“It was like a wild west town in America,” said local historian and author Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill.

 

Yielding local resources such as granite, wool and fish, this wild west is not within a cowboy’s holler of America’s wild west. This is the wild west of Ireland.

 

The area appealed to the twenty six year old D’Arcy who owned over 17,000 acres on the west coast of Connemara. The D’Arcy family was one of the famed 14 tribes of Galway. Their connections and affinity with the west of Ireland were strong and ancient.

 

John D’Arcy moved to his frontier settlement in 1812 and called the town An Clochan, meaning rocks or stones. In English he invented a new word for his frontier town, Clifden, no one knows why.

 

“It was a very remote, isolated area and there were very poor quality roads and in some cases no roads at all connecting it with the nearest towns which would have been Westport and Galway,” said Villiers-Tuthill.

 

D’Arcy virtually imported trades people into the area because, “he saw the advantages it would bring to the area and to his own estate” said Villiers-Tuthill.

 

“(The people) came here because the advantages were here and the possibility of making a better life for themselves was here,” she said.

 

D’Arcy saw potential in the area and wanted to develop a fish station in Clifden, but according to Villiers-Tuthill the initial success was met with failure.

 

“Clifden was too far inland,” said Villiers-Tuthill. The fishing station was not successful.

“(Clifden) became a market town rather than a fishing station.” Clifden provided a market for the locals to sell their agricultural produce such as oats, potatoes, vegetables and fish.

 

“They were able to bring their goods into the market and sell them there. So it created a center,” Villiers-Tuthill said.

 

Rocky terrain aside, there are pockets of fertile land. Locals used seaweed to fertilize the land.

 

“They still use it today,” Villiers-Tuthill said. If people live close to the shore and if they can bring seaweed in easily they will still use it according to Villiers-Tuthill

 

Apart from fertilizing land, other uses for the local seaweed include, medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Seaweed baths in spas throughout the country are popular. According to Villiers-Tuthill a seaweed bath is “gorgeous!”

 

Numerous artists, authors and poets are drawn to Clifden specifically. Artists are attracted to Clifden by the light according to Villiers-Tuthill.

 

“I am told that the light is absolutely perfect for them and that they love it because of that,” she said.

 

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, allegedly used the landscape of Connemara as inspiration for his fantasy landscapes.

 

“Writers came because of the solitude, and the fact that you experience a completely different world than even on the east coast of Ireland,” Villiers-Tuthill said.

 

“You have the feeling as you are driving through the rugged landscape of Connemara that you are breaking into another era, almost like another country,” she added.

 

Villiers-Tuthill is part of an eight member committee which has planned the upcoming bicentennial celebration of Clifden since 2009.

 

“We want to try to mark the occasion, interpret our history in as many ways as possible so as to make it acceptable to small children and to people who don’t have the slightest bit of interest in history,” to “those who are genuinely, deeply interested in history,” she said.

 

At present the plans involve the third annual Genealogical and Local History seminar on April 16. Speakers include Rob Goodbody, Paul Gosling, Siobhan Mc Guinness, Gregory O’Connor and Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill herself.

 

“The big one next year is the one we’re hoping people will come from abroad,”

Villiers-Tuthill said.

 

The planning of the big bicentennial celebrations is cheering up the locals amidst the recession and austerity measures according to Villiers-Tuthill. “It is raising the morale,” she said.

 

Locals are planning to bring the Irish Diaspora of Clifden and Connemara back for a 2012 celebration that promises Irish Music, traditional boat Regatta, and  a number of seminars throughout the year. The main week of celebrations will be May 25 to June 4, 2012.

 

“We’re celebrating (the bicentennial) for ourselves and hoping that by putting on a genuine festival where the local people are involved and the local people are enjoying themselves that any tourists who come will actually be part of a local festival,” she said.

 

“We would love to have people come back and join in it, they’ll definitely find us in our best of form,” Villiers-Tuthill said.

 

For more information on the celebrations and the history of Clifden and the D’Arcy family visit www.clifden2012.org

 

All photos courtesy of Connemara Publications © 2011 – visit: clifden2012.org