Judith Ann Moriarty

Judith Ann, not stoned on Blarney, ponders some Irish art

By - Mar 15th, 2012 02:02 pm
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James Dixon (Irish, 1887–1970) Cottages Covered with Spume, 1965 Oil on board 19 x 23 in. (48.26 x 58.42 cm) Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Anthony Petullo M2012.33

Tis the time of year when those with no drop of Irish, pretend they are, though why that is, I have yet to discover.

Me? I lay claim to paternal great grandparents who fled potatoes and their blight, in 1849, to wit: Bridget Moriarty and John Moriarty. They rode the bounding main in a ship bound for our shores. Neither could read nor write. I found their papers buried deep in the files in the Muscatine, Iowa, Court House.

moriarty-crest-AC2Somewhere down the line, John filed for divorce (and asked for alimony!), claiming Bridget lifted her skirts to one Henry Stoneburner, a neighboring farmer who found the Iowa winters lacking in comfort. John wandered away, say those who recall the saga, perhaps to return to Ireland and the Inch Bridge area where he was born. Let it here be said that my ancestor, Maurice Moriarty, chased the Earl of Desmond, a Fitzgerald who stole my ancestor’s cow and despoiled the wife,  into the Slieve Mish mountains and cut off his head. It was later displayed on a pole somewhere in England.

Which is why I am a Democrat, though I declined to vote for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.


James Dixon, "The Sinking of the Titanic." Courtesy of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Well, so goes the story and I’m not kidding. Never will you find me dressed in green on March 17, nor will I lift a mug of green stuff to my lips. I don’t believe in little green men or pots ‘o gold. I’ve never kissed the Blarney Stone.

This isn’t to say I am not attracted to the glorious paintings of one James Dixon who lived on Tory Island and taught himself to paint what he witnessed on that wind and water blasted lump near the Emerald Isle. His work is currently in the Accidental Genius exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I’ll drink to that and to the sharp eye of collector Anthony Petullo. Dixon departed earth in the 70’s, but not before he produced The Sinking Of The Titanic, in 1966, and a year earlier, the superb Cottages Covered With Spume. I venture to say that Cottages likely sums up his life on Tory Island, where he was born in 1887. The Titanic was born in the shipyards of Belfast.

It isn’t true that the Irish are natural storytellers, and methinks this myth is a ploy to keep tourists spending money on booze when they visit Ireland’s taverns. That said, Dixon is a genuine storyteller and in the lower corners of a few of his paintings, he includes snippets of information, just in case you missed his painterly point.


Categories: A/C Feature 1, Art

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