Feb 27th 2023

Mary O’Rourke Mariutto: Excavation

McHenry County College’s Art Gallery is pleased to present Excavation, a solo exhibition by Mary O’Rourke Mariutto, a McHenry County-based artist.

February 27 – March 24, 2023
McHenry County College | Epping Gallery
8900 U.S. Highway 14, Crystal Lake, IL 60012

Free and open to the public

In the winter of 1994, I took my first trip to Ireland to make a portfolio of images for my BFA in Photography from Georgia State University. I traveled on my own for a month to make portraits and landscapes using a 1968 Rolleiflex medium format camera. The beauty of using this vintage camera is that you look down into the large viewfinder, so the camera is not blocking your face. Eliminating this barrier strengthens the connection between photographer and subject. Exclusive use of natural and ambient light renders a rich yet subtle palette of warm, muted color.

I hope to make clear this was not a travelogue or root-seeking exploration but an anthropologic excavation to understand the distinctive qualities of work-a-day life and social interaction in the rural west of Ireland. I came to understand through storytelling, music, and pints at the pubs that past and present intermingle.

My father was a sheep farmer in Ireland until he was 40 years old. With no one to marry, he emigrated to work in the auto factories of Detroit in 1957. He married my mother, a second-generation Irish-American, and raised three kids. I stayed with my dad’s nephews and nieces in rural Leitrim and then traveled to Cork to introduce myself to my mother’s relations with only a hand-written family tree.

Arriving in winter, when the pubs are full of local farmers, this social center of agricultural life showed a glimpse into daily life and culture. They had time to share stories, play music and decide what was to be sold at the local cattle mart. I began to see and hear evidence of Ireland’s complex, multifaceted history, like the pervasiveness of both Catholic and pagan rituals, the constant talk of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, local politics, and gossip as well. I went to Ireland with a collection of uncertain expectations; some of the questions and myths were dispelled, while others manifested themselves.

The portraits exhibited here are of family and friends, school kids, and pub goers, offering an account of rural life. The landscapes are also a rugged reflection of the people who work the land and fish the sea for their livelihoods.

The stereotype of the Irish as a happy-go-lucky, gaily singing band of rowdies is a thin veneer. There’s a heartfelt melancholy there too. After thirty years in a crate, I believe these images touch a psychological edge and emotional dimension that continues to reveal a contemporary character of Ireland and its people. I hope I have captured this anthropologic excavation with a sympathetic eye.

Mary O’Rourke Mariutto is a photographer and book artist who has been concentrating on oil painting for the last decade. With a BFA in Photography from Georgia State University in 1994, Mariutto established her career working in art galleries and museums in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Portland before moving to Chicago in 2002. Solo exhibitions include the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, Starline Gallery in Harvard, and the Old Courthouse Arts Center in Woodstock. Group shows include the Wright Museum of Art in Beloit, Verum Ultimum Gallery in Portland, and nationally juried book art exhibitions at Sierra Arts Foundation in Reno and Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. Mariutto’s photography and paintings are in the collections of actor Timothy Hutton, Elton John’s National AIDS Foundation, and McHenry County College. Publications include Studio Visit Magazine and Voices Collegiate Literary Arts Magazine.

View Mariutto’s work at www.marymariutto.com

Official Website

More events on this date

Tags: , , , , , , ,