LIGHT IN THE SHADOWS Figurative lantern sculptures in artist Tom Meskell’s 2010 ‘Pilgrimage’ installation in Aughagower. Pic: tommeskell.com
Moving community arts project to honour those who died during the pandemic
For too many, the Covid years took so much more than freedom of movement, or even a steady income. Many people continue to mourn loved ones whose lives were taken by that cruel virus, as well as others who passed away during the pandemic. For those left behind, their sense of loss was deepened by the strange absence of traditional funerals, home visits and comforting hugs.
However, communities across the country are now coming together and finding ways to fill those emotional gaps – offering the bereaved a chance to grieve at last among friends while also paying tribute to those who died.
Here in Mayo, well-known Kilkelly-based artist Tom Meskell is looking for volunteers from members of the Westport and Aughagower communities to help create ten figurative lantern sculptures in honour of local people who passed away during the pandemic.
Meskell – whose beautiful work has been illuminating venues across the country and abroad since 2010 – will help bring this project to fruition by conducting workshops in which participants will bring these symbolic figures to glowing life. The finished lanterns will then be displayed, along with other illuminated sculptures, as a part of a full community public commemorative event in April. The project, which is entitled ‘Resonance’, is supported by both the Irish Hospice Foundation and Creative Ireland.
This is not the first time Aughagower has formed the beautiful backdrop for Meskell’s artistic endeavers. In fact, the tranquil heritage village, with its famous round tower and stunning abbey ruins, was the also the site of the artist’s first foray into figurative lantern art.
“[In 2010], in collaboration with the community of Aughagower, we made 50 human-sized lantern figures,” he explains. “That piece was called ‘Pilgrimage’. Since then, I have developed similar projects in Ireland and the USA. In each case, the pieces have been commemorative.”
Meskell hopes the upcoming Resonance project will help the bereaved to heal by allowing them to come together with others to celebrate and honour those they lost. “Using the beauty of the figures we will joyfully remember those who passed,” he says, adding: “I will be working with local volunteers to make these figures in a way that is creative, team building and bonding, and a personal development journey.”
The project will first involve two weekend workshops (March 25-26 and April 15-16, 10am to 4pm each day) with full instruction and assistance, and plenty of collaborative discussion.
The plan is to launch the finished project in April with an open-air evening or night-time event in Aughagower that will see the lit-up figures on display. There is also talk of bringing the lantern sculptures up Croagh Patrick in a procession – one can imagine how visually arresting, deeply moving and resonantly symbolic such a journey would be. The project will also be documented by the talented Ugnius Brazdžiunas of Amayo photography, whose stunning photographs of Westport and its surrounds have deservedly garnered a huge fanbase on social media.
To see such community-arts engagement in a rural village setting like Aughagower rather than a larger town is truly heartwarming. And for it to centre around such a thoughtful and considered theme makes it even more special. Hopefully it will bring some comfort to those whose natural need to communally express grief and sorrow was stifled by the pandemic and its burdensome restrictions.
For more information on Tom Meskell and his work, visit www.tommeskell.com. To express an interest in taking part, or to learn more about the Resonance project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that workshop participants must be aged 18 or over.