Joel Elgin's vibrant intaglio prints are inspired by the rich folklore of his Irish heritage. The process in which Joel works helps him connect more deeply to the characters and stories represented in his prints and has inspired him to explore the ancient landscape of Ireland time and time again. From Des Moines, Iowa originally, Joel studied at Simpson College and Grandview College before attending the University of Iowa and receiving his B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A. in Printmaking. He taught at Dartmouth College for five years and has served as a lecturer and visiting artist at Yale University and Swarthmore College. His prints are in the collections of Trinity College in Dublin, Harvard University Art Museums, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Irish Embassy at Budapest, among others. Joel is currently Professor of Printmaking at University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
The Tuatha Dé Danann series: The Tuatha De Danann flew to Ireland in a cloud of mist and became known as the Sidhe. They were a race of deities as well as race of heroes, skilled in art and science and poetry. The Tuatha De Danann were known for superior intelligence, andfor their own beauty and their love for the beauty of mortals. The history of the Tuatha De Danann is rich with stories of their magical powers enchantments, illusions, shape-shiftings, and bodily transformations.
The Athraigh series: Sadbh: In Irish, Athraigh means to transform, to change, alter, to shift. Transformation, from one form to another, is common in ancient Irish legend.
The Irish hero Fionn and his magical wolf hounds, Bran and Sceolan encounter a beautiful red deer that follows them back to Fionn's estate and suddenly transforms into a woman. The woman, Sadbh (“Doe”), had been cursed for refusing the advances of a druid. At Fionn’s estate, the curse is lifted and Fionn and Sadbh fall in love and marry.
The Druid returns while Fionn is away and captures pregnant Sadbh. Fionn searches endlessly for her but is never able to find her. Seven years after Sadbh's disappearance Fionn and his wolf hounds come across a boy who has been living wild in the woods. It is revealed that the boy is the son of Sadbh and Fionn. Sadbh, with her son, had escaped once again from the Druid only to be recaptured, turned again to a red deer and dragged away by the Druids dogs. Fionn names his son Oisin, “Small Deer”.
Selkie: The Selkies (Shellka), are a race as magical as the Sidhe (SHEaa) and as old, but very different. They can drop their seal coverings, their actual skins and become men and women. This transformation involves a certain amount of risk. If the seal skin is stolen, the thief gains control of the Selkie, who is forced to stay in human form until possession of the seal skin is returned.
The Caolite’s Rabble: Gathering the Flocks of Birds for the Freedom of Finn series: To free the captured hero Finn, Caolite accepted and completed the task of capturing two of all the wild creatures of Ireland.
Brú na Bóinne: The gods and the people of the Sidhe fought for and live in Brú na Bóinne - The Palace of the Boyne at the bend in the Boyne River, just a bit north of what we now call Dublin. They were confined to it and other hidden places after their unsuccessful battle with the Milesians, ancestors of the Irish people. Newgrange it is also called, is older that Stonehenge by some 500 years, and the Great Pyramids by 300.
The sacred home was and still is, in alignment with the winter solstice. On the morning of the 21st/22nd of December, the rays of the rising sun shine through a shaft allowing the newly-risen sun to illuminate a stone basin (presumably the basin would be filled with water, which would reflect the sunlight throughout the chamber) at the end of the passage and light up a series of intricate spiral carvings in the rock walls and ceiling. The chamber is brilliantly lit for around 17 minutes and this solar display lasts for five days.
The Dagda, the Good God of Ireland, lived for a time in Bru na Boinne (Newgrange). He was an invincible and fierce warrior with skills in the arts and in magic. Included in The Dagda’s many treasures of Ireland was the Cup of The Dagda, and the Harp of The Dagda. The Cup of The Dagda could generate drink or food for any number of people. Only cowards and oath-breakers were left hungry. The Cup or sometimes called the Cauldron of the Dagda had the ability to heal and in some accounts even raise the dead.