Dorothy Cross

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Dorothy Cross (born 1956) is an Irish artist. Working with differing media, including sculpture, photography, video and installation, she represented Ireland at the 1993 Venice Biennale. Central to her work as a whole are themes of sexual and cultural identity, personal history, memory, and the gaps between the conscious and subconscious. In a 2009 speech by the president of UCC, Cross was described as "one of Ireland’s leading artists".[1]


Cross was born in 1956 in Cork, Ireland, one of three children of Fergus and Dorothy Cross.[1] Her older brother Tom went on to become a zoologist and professor at University College, Cork, while her older sister Jane was a swimmer who was on a team that set a world relay record at the 1985 World Masters Championships.[1] Cross herself was a competitive swimmer in her teens, becoming All-Ireland champion in the 100-meter breaststroke at the age of 15 and going on to win other medals over the next few years.[1]

Cross attended the Crawford Municipal School of Art in Cork before undertaking degree studies at Leicester Polytechnic, England, from 1974 to 1977. She also studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, California, from 1978 to 1979 and 1980 to 1982, where she completed an MFA Degree in printmaking.[2][1]


Exhibiting regularly since the mid-1980s, Cross came to mainstream public attention with her first major solo installation, 'Ebb', at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, Ireland.[1] This was followed, in 1991, by 'Powerhouse', at the ICA in Philadelphia, the Hyde Gallery and Camden Arts Centre in London and Kerlin Gallery in Dublin. Like 'Ebb', several of the component parts that made up 'Powerhouse' were 'found' objects - many of which had been in her family's possession for years or were located from different environments. These were then incorporated into mixed media pieces for exhibit. Cross's general approach of creating works using found objects has been referred to as "poetic amalgamation".[3]

During the early 1990s, Cross witnessed a traditional sieve created from stretched cow's udder at a local museum in Norway and stated, "Seeing that a cow could be used for something other than producing milk was a total revelation."[4] In response, she began producing sculptural works, utilising cured cowhide, cow udders and stuffed snakes, which explored the cultural and symbolic significance of sexuality and subjectivity across cultures.[1] For Cross, the use of udders generated a strange mixture of disgust, hilarity, and excitement.Virgin Shroud (1993), for example, is a veil made from a cow skin, with the udders forming a crown for the concealed figure; it references both the Virgin Mary and Meret Oppenheim's fur-lined teacup that was a partial inspiration for the piece.[4] Saddle (also 1993) incorporates an upturned udder into the seat of a horse's saddle.

Cross is perhaps best known for her public installation Ghost Ship (1998) in which a disused light ship was illuminated through use of luminous paint, in Scotman's Bay, off Dublin's Dún Laoghaire Harbour.[1] A recent series, Medusae, includes images of Chironex fleckeri, a type of jellyfish and was made in collaboration with her brother Tom.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective of her work in 2005.

An exhibition, 'View', that took place between September and November 2014 at the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, included a series of new sculptures and photographs. The works, which are exemplary of the artist’s complex exploration of the connection between humans and the natural world, and that play with material, relationship and time, capture the artist’s ongoing compulsion to agitate possibilities for new perspectives and points of view.[5]

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2009, Cross was awarded an honorary doctorate by University College, Cork. During her years in the United States, she won a prestigious Pollock-Krasner Award (1990). Her work has been supported by grants from the Wellcome Trust and the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and Arts Council of England.[1]

Notable group shows[edit]

  • 1988 Battersea Arts Centre, London - A Sense of Place
  • 1989 P.S. 1 Institute of Contemporary Art - Eclipse
  • 1990 Artpark Public Art Summer Residency Program, Artpark, Lewiston, NY - (Slippery Slope)
  • 1991 Edmonton Gallery, Canada - The Fifth Provence
  • 1993 Venice Biennale - An Irish Presence
  • 1994 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and CCA Glasgow - Bad Girls
  • 1994 Irish Museum of Modern Art - Beyond the Pale
  • 1995 Brighton Museum and Art Gallery - Fetishism: Visualising Power and Desire
  • 1995 Musee d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris - Passions Privees
  • 1996 ArtPace, San Antonio, TX - International Artist in Residence Program
  • 1997 Istanbul - Biennial
  • 1998 Liverpool - Biennial
  • 1998 Boston MIT List Art Center, Miami Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self Representation
  • 1999 1st Liverpool Biennale of Contemporary Art
  • 2000 Give and Take, Jerwood Space, London
  • 2001 At Sea, Tate Liverpool
  • 2002 Liverpool Biennial
  • 2003 Something Else, Turku Art Museum, Finland
  • 2004 Wonderful, Visions of The Near Future, Arnolfini at L Shed, Bristol Industrial Museum, (February – March) travelling to Magna, Rotherham, (September – October) and Cornerhouse, Manchester
  • 2005 Truth universally acknowledged, ACCA, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne
  • 2006 18:Beckett, The Banff Centre, Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff
  • 2007 Singing The Real, South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town
  • 2008 Through the Lens: New media art from Ireland, Beijing Art Museum of the Imperial City, Beijing, China
  • 2009 DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture - Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
  • 2009 Underwater/Above Water – from the aquarium to the video image, Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven
  • 2010 POOL, Two person with William McKeown, The Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
  • 2011 Eleventh Plateau, Archeological Society Museum, Athens
  • 2012 WIDE OPEN SCHOOL, Hayward Gallery, London
  • 2013 ‘Aquatopia: The Imaginary of the Ocean Deep’, Tate St. Ives, Cornwall
  • 2014 Museum Kunst der Westkueste, Alkersum/Foehr, Germany

Notable solo shows[edit]

  • 1988 Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin - 'Ebb'
  • 1991 ICA, Philadelphia, Hyde Gallery & Camden Art's Centre, London, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin - 'Powerhouse'
  • 1991 Camden Art's Centre, London - 'Parthenon'
  • 1996 Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol - 'Even: Recent Work by Dorothy Cross'
  • 1997 Angles Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1998 Project Arts Centre, Dublin, Off Site Project, St Enda's, Galway - 'Chiasm'
  • 2000 Mimara Museum, Zagreb
  • 2001 Frith Street Gallery, London
  • 2002 Kerlin Gallery
  • 2005 McMullen Museum of Art, Chestnut Hill - 'GONE: Site-Specific Works by Dorothy Cross'
  • 2005 Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
  • 2008 Antarctica, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton
  • 2009 Coma, Bloomberg Space, London
  • 2011 Stalactite, Heineken Ireland, former Beamish and Crawford Gallery, Cork
  • 2013 Connemara, Turner Contemporary, UK
  • 2014 Kerlin Gallery

Works in collections[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen Randolph, Jody. "Dorothy Cross." Close to the Next Moment: Interviews from a Changing Ireland. Manchester: Carcanet, 2010.
  • "Heat and Cold: Projects by Dorothy Cross and Lewis deSoto at ArtPace in San Antonio." tate: the art magazine. Winter 1996.
  • Higgins, Judith. "Art from the Edge." Art in America. December, 1995.
  • Isaak, Jo Anna. "Laughter Ten Years After." Art in America. December, 1995.
  • Lydenberg, Robin. Gone: Site Specific Works by Dorothy Cross. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  • Murdoch, Sadie. "Too Much of a Good Thing." Women's Art Magazine. July-August, 1995.
  • Wilson, Claire. "Irish Eyes." Art and Antiques. Summer 1996.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Murphy, Michael B. "Introductory Address". University College, Cork, Dec. 2, 2009. (Address on conferral of honorary doctorate on Cross)
  2. ^ McGonagle, Declan, O'Toole, Fintan, and Levin, Kim. Irish Art Now: From the Poetic to the Political. New York: Independent Curators International, 1999. Print.
  3. ^ Kissane, Sean, ed. Dorothy Cross. Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art. A Charta Publication, 2005.
  4. ^ a b Mundy, Jennifer. "Dorothy Cross: Virgin Shroud 1993." London: Tate Modern, 1997. Article.
  5. ^ "Dorothy Cross: View, 5 September- 6 November 2015." Dublin, Ireland: Kerlin Gallery, 2014. Article.
  6. ^ 'Dorothy Cross: Virgin Shroud 1993'. Tate website.

External links[edit]