For the Sake of Art: A Dutiful Daughter's Quest in the Home of Irish Whiskey

By Chandra Gilmore, Contributing Writer

The friendship between my parents and Jonah Ward’s parents spans decades from upstate New York to northern California. As kids, I remember my brother and I chasing Jonah and his siblings like ewoks through the forest. As adults we’re loosely in touch, mostly via updates from our parents.

As such, shortly before I flew to Ireland in November ‘14, my mother mentions to me that one of Jonah's art pieces is on display at a place possibly called the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin. Dutiful daughter that I am, I google the museum. Low and behold, there are multiple whiskey and Guinness and other libation museums in Dublin. I promise my mother to do my best to find Jonah’s piece.


Dublin airport is quaintly convenient with a shuttle running every 30 minutes into the city center. No trouble in customs with these freckles and this hair, despite the nefarious stamps on my bloated passport; honestly, I have a harder time getting in/out of the US. I follow the flow of people onto the city bus that appears to be awaiting my arrival conspiring to take my fellow travelers and me into a charming capital city. The bus driver shoos me out at the appropriate stop, which happens to be directly in front of the Irish Whiskey Museum. What luck!! The building renovation is so fresh, plastic still sticks to panes of window. Dubious and fatigued, I convince myself that it is far too convenient to be dropped in front of the one place I am to see in Dublin within 30 minutes of arrival and... I procrastinate. I must remember the name wrong. I don't want to drag my bags around the museum. Surely, this can't be it. Standing in Dublin's pregnant grey mist promising to let its water break at any moment, I make a mental note to check the museum name once I drop my bags and sort myself out (i.e. purchase an umbrella).

Cut to the next scene, carrying an umbrella (one of the four black umbrellas I lost last year), a poorly proportioned map provided by one of the ever present and exceedingly helpful tourist info desks in the city, and my boots are walking back to the Irish Whiskey Museum which may or may not house Jonah's piece. There's a jovial man at the new museum entrance greeting passersby. His cheeks are red from the cold or perhaps he has an Irish flush and is still recovering from the previous day's indiscretions. I personally dislike whiskey and unsure of how many museums I'll need to visit to find Jonah's piece, I'm conjuring a way to conduct an absence/presence test of Jonah's art without drinking up. Oh... and it's about 11am. I know it's 5-o-clock somewhere, but it's 11am in Dublin.

"Hi, does this museum have any art?" I ask awkwardly, shaking my umbrella.

"Oh miss… the only art in this museum is LIQUID!" responds Mr. Flush-Face.

I'm laughing, surprised by his quick wit, "Ah. Well that makes sense. I wonder if there is an art installation inside that a friend may have made,"

"Well, go in then! And see for yourself!" With that Mr. Flush-Face ushers me through scaffolding and up the entrance stairs.

I locate a receptionist and, umbrella dripping, ask her about the art. She calls over Mike, the manager. I'm clearly the only museum guest. Apparently, whiskey museums are not so popular at 11am. Even New Museums. Even in Dublin. Mike, clearly tickled to have a guest, greets me and explains a little about the new museum, cafe, bar, etc. As he's talking, I'm looking at his face, and he has the strangest jaundice all around his cheeks and forehead. Both of his eyes are blood red. I mean, the whites of both eyes are completely red as if filled with blood. And this jaundice is unnatural. We're chatting and it occurs to me that Mike, the Irish Whiskey Museum Manager, might be a bit of a brawler in spite of a less than threatening stature. He is clearly recovering from two severe black eyes. Huge fists must have pulped this man's face - a hell of a 1-2 combo. I wonder how the other guy looks. As if having solved a riddle, I turn to Mike and ask him, "What about this piece, right here? Do you know anything about these wooden panels?"

Quick on the draw (today, at least), Mike pulls out his phone searching god-knows-what and sure enough! We found it! He reads to me about Jonah's piece and Jonah. We're really impressed that this wood was burned with molten glass. We watch a video of Jonah burning innocent timber with hot liquid glass. Mike fusses over the installation with newfound pride. It’s well lit, but one of the panels isn't hanging properly. He resolves to find a fix to it. I tell him about some of Jonah's other work. He asks about Jonah's family and my family. With Mike’s sincerity over Jonah and his art, Dublin becomes familiar and the Irish Whiskey Museum holds a piece of home.

When I finally report back to my mother and Jonah’s family I attach photographic evidence of the installation. I should have gotten a shot with Mike next to Jonah's piece so you can see what I mean about the jaundice. Alas... you know how it is with hindsight.