Judy Foley

Judy Foley’s to sew a heart and to mend an aorta iii, reference the labours of skilled technicians in the high-tech medical device industry, where implants such as artificial heart valves and stents are manufactured using ancient skills of needlecraft. Traditionally carried through generations by women, these skills have now been brought into the 21st century through the manufacturing requirements of medical technology. Such implants entail a painstaking process of making, involving the hand stitching of component parts.

to sew a heart is informed by the industry design templates and sewing assemblies for a bioprosthetic heart valve and is made to scale for a human heart. The piece incorporates materials with specific tensions combining protective beeswax with fragile and light-sensitive papers. Repair through the sewing process is an important element and the stitching methods used are relevant and alternate between the temporary mending of a ‘running whip stitch’ to the more secure ‘blanket stitch’. Underpinning this tension is the promise of extended life offered through medical science against the inevitable fallibility of the human condition.

Multiple Artworks

Objects of mixed media (paper, beeswax and thread) in a steel and Perspex vitrine


Judy Foley has an interdisciplinary background rooted in art practice and science. She holds an MA in Art & Research Collaboration (2019) and a BA in Visual Arts Practice (2007) from Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design + Technology and a BSc in Chemistry from University College Cork (1981). Projects and exhibitions include a residency post with Trinity Centre for Bioengineering and AMBER in Trinity College Dublin, culminating in a solo show, Foreign Body at the O’Reilly Institute, TCD (2019); Ex Voto: The Body + The Institution at Galway Arts Centre (2018); Statecraft, a collaborative partnership with IMMA’s National Programme (2016) and Holding Together, an exhibition to celebrate 50 years of the Modern Art Collection of Trinity College Dublin, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2010). Recent work has been selected for the 190th RHA Annual Exhibition (2020) and Winter Open, Rua Red, Dublin (2019). Awards include the TCD Performing and Visual Arts Award (2019).

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