Series: GORTA MÓR - The Irish Diaspora In Toronto
The series began with artist Brandon Steen’s personal story of strength. He found strength in his ancestor's story of coping with the profound distress he was faced navigating the new pandemic world of Covid-19. His own wife Janie is disabled from a nightmare known as Myalgic encephalomyelitis, which means she lives with an unhealed virus in her body leaving her housebound and unable to receive the vaccine for covid-19. This placed a tremendous amount of worry and stress on Brandon.
He looked to his family’s past to find strength as he reflected on his great, great, great grandparents John and Frances Steen from County Cavan who survived the Great Irish Potato Famine and gave him the courage and strength to avoid Covid-19.
“My story in Canada links directly back to the Gorta Mór years, so that’s where this series begins”
To start this series, he began with a location that links directly to Gorta Mór. The painting ‘ARRIVALS’ is of Ireland Park in Toronto, principally of the Mammy who is one of the 5 sculptures by renowned Irish bronze sculpture Rowan Gillespie. The park itself is a sister sculpture park to the Famine Memorial Park on the River Liffey in Dublin known as “Departures” showing 7 figures. Toronto’s has 5 sculptures to show the loss of life on the journey to Canada. Ireland park exists because of the great work of many, and chiefly that of Mr. Robert Kearns newly awarded with the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Ancient Ireland has many mythological figures and one in particular was Morrígan. She is primarily associated with war, fate and death. She was one of the Tuatha De Danann peoples. Brandon saw her as the perfect protagonist keeping watch over the Irish in his series GORTA MÓR.
In this incredible and moving painting Brandon has placed Morrígan walking and protecting the Mammy as she makes her way forward. The grass was painted purposefully windswept to represent the wind that filled the sails of those coffin ships that brought the Irish down the St. Lawrence River to Toronto. All counties of Ireland are reflected in the graffiti to honour those counties exodus of lives.