My installation ‘Shelter’ is currently in St Ann’s church as part of the exhibition ‘How did if get so dark?’ 40 shelters for 40 days of Lent. Each of my porcelain paper clay shelters is embossed with an old Irish proverb, ‘At scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine’ alongside the translation, ‘It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.’
I am intrigued by the safe spaces we seek when we are in darkness. When we carry a pain too great to bear we often find solace and shelter with one another.
My paper clay shelters are not perfect; they are beautifully fragile, like us. Each shelter wears an imperfection or tear; I have glazed gold lustre on the cracks and tears to speak of the mystery of new beginnings and renewal. We all wear our stories of brokenness; this is one of the collective human experiences that unite us. Belonging is sharing our most authentic selves with one another, our stories of brokenness, loss and new beginnings. It is these stories of healing and transformation that gives us the ability to console others. Our ‘golden scars’ give us the ability to shelter.
Shelter is solace. Shelter is where hope can find its new form. Shelter is belonging. Shelter may not be a cure. Yet, the beautiful mystery is that it transforms both the one who is being sheltered and the one who is doing the sheltering.
This collective sheltering with one another is when we often experience the whisper of a divine shelter. As the Irish hymn writer once penned ‘thou my soul’s shelter.’ Or as Marilynne Robinson beautifully writes her exquisite novel Gilead:
I might seem to be comparing something great and holy with a minor and ordinary thing, that is, God with mortal love. But I just don’t see them as separate things at all. If we can be divinely fed with a morsel and divinely blessed with a touch, then the terrible pleasure we find in a particular face can certainly instruct us in the nature of the very grandest love.