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Slowing Down with Artist Jane Cassidy

Jane Cassidy is a multi-disciplinary artist and educator from Galway, Ireland. We speak with her about her art and influences, what it's like to make work that calms and transports, and of course, her love for New Orleans.

Photo: Michael Tucker

Jane Cassidy is a multi-disciplinary artist and educator from Galway, Ireland. We speak with her about her art and influences, what it's like to make work that calms and transports, and of course, her love for New Orleans.

What’s your story?

It felt like a windy confusing road there for a while, but happy and forward moving. I didn’t know where I was at for a long time but I was always pretty creative and very active in Dublin. It’s a lively city and I used to put on a lot of events and shows. Music is my original background and I used to be the lead singer in a 90s dance band. There were 18 of us and we’d play all over Ireland – a wild party band who one night played The Attention Bébé Portobello World Tour. We were based in an area called Portobello and we played five different venues in one continuous gig, playing on the streets in between pubs. Even when I didn’t know where I was going, I was having fun getting there.

Eventually I moved to New Orleans in 2012 to pursue an MFA at Tulane. I had been back and forth to the states a fair bit and was mad keen to live in New Orleans and learn more about art. It was a dream come true from day one. After three years, I moved to teach at the University of Alabama and I just moved to Boston this August.

From Jane's 'The Thin Veil'

How did growing up in Ireland influence your work?

The most artistically formative years were when I completed a Masters in Music and Media Technologies at Trinity College Dublin. It was incredibly influential in opening me up to experimentation and a broad electronic music scene. Dublin is hopping with creativity and even though I felt like I never knew where I was at, I was always supported. I made visuals for bands and DJs, produced events, played gigs and learnt a ton from all the people around me. It was energetic and amplified the importance of community and support.

In 2011, I went to Art Farm, a two-month residency in rural Nebraska. There were a wealth of big skies and dramatic light events. Nebraska left such an impression on my practice and how I saw things. Following on from that insightful period, I find that Ireland has grown to feature in my work very frequently. In the summers, I spend a lot of time at home filming and making field recordings. In addition to that, I spend a lot of time talking to locals, spending time outdoors and connecting to that mysticism that you hear about. I keep written documentation too, so that my reflections can continue to influence my work. For me, going home is a total change of pace and way of living. I’m trying to instill that in my work so that audiences can get a sense of that too.

“For me, going home is a total change of pace and way of living. I’m trying to instill that in my work so that audiences can get a sense of that too.”

Jane in City Park on a recent visit in New Orleans

What draws you to a project?

Every project is different but often, spaces and people are intrinsic to what draws me. My work is split between collaborations and my own solo practice. Most frequently, my work is trying to reinterpret something that fascinates me in nature (water, night skies, darkness) and to try create something beautiful, that is highly sensory and reflects that. I’m interested in site-specificity; to reinterpret a space and take you somewhere new. Everyone’s minds seems to be going a million miles a second, so when you enter a work of mine, I want to pull back on that pace and slow things down and maybe even make you so relaxed that you go to sleep. I’ve been working on a slow moving, luscious film, that is made from footage of water. The way that it is edited, along with the synchronized music, gives a strong sense of deep calm breathing. It’s interesting to use visuals and music to influence what happens to your physicality as well as your cognition.

In the summer of 2017, I was asked to light up a 600 year old castle on Inis Oírr, a tiny island off the west of Ireland. The locals asked me to do it, and if it wasn’t for a farmer, a fisherman, the ice-cream van man and some other locals being my technical assistants, it would never have come to pass. When I went back to the island a few months later for winter solstice, I had all the school children draw mandalas inspired by the sun, then I animated and projected them onto the castle. So, community engagement and fun can also play a big factor.

“Everyone’s minds seems to be going a million miles a second, so when you enter a work of mine, I want to pull back on that pace and slow things down and maybe even make you so relaxed that you go to sleep.”

What do you hope to accomplish with a project?

A credo I try to adhere to is that I want my work to create a safe and comforting space, open to all ages, irrespective of art knowledge or experience. I like people to feel mesmerized and curious and to stay with a work for a long time.

From Jane's 'The Undersea Well'

Why New Orleans?

I had been to New Orleans a few times before I moved down, on a jazz pilgrimage and to do some post-Katrina construction work. It took a while to figure out how to get to move to New Orleans but I was pretty determined — it's just an incredible city and I bawled every time I left. Since I moved to New Orleans in 2012, the city has been a thrilling gift. The MFA program at Tulane let me expand my work with great support from staff, faculty and my mighty cohorts. The art scene just folded me in and supported me thoroughly.

New Orleans reminded me a lot of my hometown Galway too. People love to share stories, are very creative, play music and enjoy a rich variety of culture. I come back to New Orleans all the time, it’s definitely a second home. The friendships I have formed have been incredibly significant and plenty of New Orleanians have now come home to visit my people. There’s a mutual love there.

I was told once, “in order to survive, one must be a moving target.” It’s a line that helps me make sense of why I have put myself in a position to miss New Orleans.

“New Orleans reminded me a lot of my hometown Galway too. People love to share stories, are very creative, play music and enjoy a rich variety of culture.”

What’s next?

I’ve just moved to Boston to take up a teaching position at Boston College. I feel like I’m starting a new life all over again. I’m focusing on keeping up, and so far, it’s been a great experience.

I’ve been busy in my studio too. I participated in a residency this summer at the Cill Rialaig Project in Co. Kerry. It is in the south west of Ireland, on the side of a mountain, on what felt like the edge of the world. The landscape is truly awesome and there is a lot of spirituality lingering there from Neolithic standing stones to holy wells. I filmed a lot of beautiful footage and made many field recordings. On January 12th, 2019, I have solo show opening at the UNO gallery on St Claude Ave for one month. All this work is for that show. So, come on out New Orleans, let’s see if I can put you to sleep!

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