Shortlist 2021

Maria McKinney

Maria McKinney

Maria McKinney is an artist based in Dublin. She studied at NWIFHE, Derry and then graduated from the University of Ulster with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 2005. She makes work through a range of media including sculpture, installation, photography and video, and combines craft techniques with materials that respond to context.

In recent years, she has made work about contemporary farming practices and agriculture, primarily focusing on cattle breeding. This has crossed over into research into the ongoing and deepening understanding of genetics, how this is being applied to livestock, and its wider societal implications. She has collaborated with numerous farmers and geneticists, creating work that is closely influenced by what they do. Her practice is primarily sculptural, with the objects she makes usually completed when worn on the body. She has tested this approach through performative interventions in live agricultural events, using photography and video as documentary tools. The materials she uses are chosen because of their typical function and then manipulated using traditional hand-crafting processes. These include AI (artificial insemination) straws repurposed to make sculptural objects using age-old straw-binding techniques, alongside more natural materials like Jute rope, wheat straw and even Jacob’s cream crackers.

Maria McKinney applied for a Golden Fleece Award to help sustain her practice in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the knock-on effect this has had on work opportunities. Research in the border landscape of Cavan into the Irish Moiled (“Moilie”), one of Ireland’s four surviving indigenous cattle breeds, and the Drumlin Belt that stretches from Down to Donegal are starting points for new work that funding would help facilitate.