2:21 Leslie MacWeeney

Continuing the 21:21 blog series, celebrating 21 years of Showcase at Home, I feature the second of 21 artists here, Leslie MacWeeney.

Ten years ago as CEO of Graphic Studio Dublin (GSD) I invited Leslie MacWeeney to Dublin from the US to celebrate 50 years of GSD. Leslie had been a founding member and secretary of Ireland’s oldest fine art print collective. Founded with Elizabeth Rivers (1903-1964), Liam Miller (1924-1987), Patrick Hickey (1927-1998) and Anne Yeats (1919-2001) in 27 Herbert Place, Dublin 2 in November 1960, the studio is a core part of Irish art infrastructure. It is one of a handful of artist led organisations in the country who own their own buildings.

The minutes of the first meeting of Graphic Studio Dublin in November 1960. Photo: J.Ryan.

Leslie arrived in Dublin for the launch of the GSD 50th anniversary exhibition in The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

The excitement was legendary, she was like an art rock star, with stories of the 1960s Dublin art scene, a scene that she had shaped. As former secretary of The Irish Exhibition of Living Art (IELA) she had played a role in how artists politically took control of their own futures in a State which had only formally recognised the arts in the first Arts Act in 1951.

Leslie MacWeeney in Graphic Studio Dublin NCR 2010 Photo J.Ryan

In the years after Leslie left Ireland for the USA, she founded a number of arts organisations in Massachusetts including DOT art with other arts educators. The arts hub in Dorchester outside Boston is thriving today.

How Leslie ever found time to make art while doing what she did is remarkable. Her work is figurative and modernist in style. It represents the Ireland where art and design fuse. Her best known works feature female figures, not surprising when you consider she worked alongside the formidable Norah McGuinness (1901-1988) at the IELA.  MacWeeney exhibited at the Paris Biennale in 1959 and 1961, and her work is in the collection of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.

The Girl in the Woods Leslie Macweeney photo: Whytes

60 years from that meeting in Herbert Place artists need now, more than ever, to politically change the art landscape to one that recognises their importance in the Ireland of today and the future.


Graphic Studio Dublin – celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2020

The National Campaign for the Arts

1:21 Harry Kernoff