The Outskirts


Willie Doherty ( Irish, 1959 )

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General Description

Willie Doherty's photograph depicts the historically contested landscape where the borders of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland meet. Springing from the Troubles, Doherty's work uses landscape to suggest a potentially disturbing incident has perhaps taken place within this conventionally beautiful setting. What looks at first to be stock imagery becomes suspect: a group of reeds and tall grasses at the roadside is silhouetted against a late sunset, while in the foreground is a set of tire tracks left by some unknown vehicle, suggesting a recent quick getaway for an undetermined purpose. The land is witness as well as stage, a site of incident and a bearer of meaning. The Outskirts evokes beauty and menace in a straightforward style that, despite its loaded subject matter, does not allow a simple interpretation of its source in civil strife.

Adapted from

  • Charles Wylie, "Requisite Distance," in Willie Doherty: Requisite Distance, ed. Frances Bowles (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 32-37.

  • Charles Wylie, DMA unpublished material, 1997.

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