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In the Open

Rydale Folk Museum Art Gallery exhibition September – November 2021 Snake head selected

The presented works reference protection and eradication of illness or ‘danger’ during the pandemic, common themes for me but ones which became more dominant in my work during lockdown and inspired these sculptures. In this time of global change and ecological concern, the pandemic focused my thinking on material use. I’m mindful of natural resources, use found organic material and photograph temporal pieces.

Lockdown lifted in October 2020, and being keen walkers, my husband and I managed a trip out of London to complete the Whitby Way, a 70 mile, seven day pilgrimage from the minster in my home diocese of York to Whitby Abbey over the North York Moors. The walk passes through the historic village of Lastingham, the site of an early monastery founded by Cedd and his brothers and the location of four holy wells. As Abbott during a time of plague in 664, Cedd and his brother Cynebil died from the disease, so too 30 monks who attended the funeral. On nearby Spaunton Moor I found a patch of clay on the path and took some with me.

Days later we arrived in Whitby and visited the Abbey where St. Hild was founder Abbes, 680. Legend tells of a plague of snakes which Hild turned to stone through prayer. Snake heads were carved onto the coastal ammonite fossils to honour this legend. To commemorate the plague deaths and Hild’s banishing of danger, I decided to form my clay into a snakestone.

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