In pre-Christian Europe humans annually performed a custom that is considered by some as an attempt to influence the future behavior of nature. Part of this practice involved making a corn dolly, an object made through the intricate handcraft of binding straw with the final sheaf of that year’s crop. Kept safe through the winter months this figurine was then deliberately destroyed the following year as the new seed was being sewn. This doll has since become a symbol of fertility, both of the land and the living creatures that feed off it.
In contemporary society however, the branch of knowledge known as genomics has given scientists the true ability to direct nature in the future development of animal and plant species, thanks to an understanding of the complex patterns held within the structure of DNA.
For eighteen months in 2015 and 2016 artist Maria McKinney worked with Dovea Genetics (a bull stud with 90 bulls standing at stud producing semen in a controlled environment), quantitative geneticist Dr. Donagh Berry, Teagasc, genome biologist Prof. David MacHugh, UCD and Head of Veterinary Clinical Studies Prof. Michael Doherty, UCD to develop a body of work that explores the correlation between the predictive features of genomics in the development of beef and dairy cattle and how this might echo the prophesying function of the corn dolly. Maria produced a significant body of work including sculpture, large scale photographs and video that was first exhibited at RHA Dublin in September/October 2016.
Maria McKinney is a visual artist from Inishowen County Donegal based in Dublin. She was shortlisted for the MAC International 2014 and recently she completed a residency in the UCD School of Science. Previous solo exhibitions include Lokaal 01, Antwerp, Belgium, 2016, La Permanence, Clermont-Ferrand, France, 2015, the MAC, Belfast, 2012 and the Lab Gallery, Dublin, 2010. Group exhibitions include Void Gallery, Derry, 2015, Tulca, Galway, 2015 and 2013, Acme Project Space, London, 2015, The Kilkenny Arts Festival, 2011, Eva, Limerick, 2010 and Futures, RHA, Dublin, 2009.