Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Denise O'Connell 

BA [Hons] Art

Denise O’Connell takes an ethical approach to her art practice. She likes to work with sustainable materials in approaching ecology with creative ideas. She articulates her interest in examining alterations in the natural world through sculpture. She has exhibited her work at Propositions, IADT 2022, Sculpture in Context, (online) Exhibition, 2020, Afterthought, United Arts Club, 2020, IADT Sculpture in the Quadrangle, 2019 and New Translations, Student Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham, 2019.

Project Description

My project is concerned with the Anthropocene. That’s a big word to describe the myriad of minute details that make up the compounding effect of our imprint on the planet. I am investigating these effects in various ways, for example by using honey to explore climate change. My abstract wood sculpture emphasises the human connection to the earth, through its form and materiality. Environmental adaptation is the concept of my resin and glass footsteps. I like to focus on using materials of the earth, such as clay, wood, moss, algae, water and wax, in an effort to be ethical and as sustainable as possible. This often calls for ingenuity, requiring research and experimentation with materials such as bioresins, in order to achieve my aims. Covid 19 lockdowns gave me ample opportunity to immerse myself in recent writings on the natural world. These writers are inspirational in formulating the ideas incorporated in my project.

Thesis Title: The Expanding Field of Land Art in the Anthropocene Era

I analyse the context and development of American Land Art from the 1960s and show how the nascent ecological ethos of the Anthropocene was viewed through the lens of artists Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and European artist Olafur Eliasson. I pose the questions, why did Land Art develop? How did it evolve over the decades? and where is Land Art today
The criteria for choosing these three artists is the diversity of their process. These distinct artists are linked by their evocation of the sublime in the creation of some of their artworks. They challenge our understanding of reality, our notion of time and our perception of place in the world. They encourage us to see what is unobserved. I trace land artists involvement through reclamation of toxic sites and growing public awareness of the need to influence governments to policies of ecological protection.
In conclusion I review the legacy of Land Art as manifested through Eliasson's involvement in climate crises activism. Land art has expanded to include a growing numbers of artists whose work is deeply connected to the earth. Their art highlights the need to protect ecosystems, made all the more urgent by Covid 19 as millions have died from an inability to breath. In the words of Nancy Holt “ we [Artists] can become nature’s agents, rather than nature’s aggressors.