Artist Name(s) Dorothy Cross & Tom Cross
Artwork title Medusae
Context/Background In 2000 artist Dorothy Cross and her scientist brother Professor Tom Cross successfully sought funding from Sci-Art fund to pursue investigations focusing on the aesthetic, anthropological and scientific aspects of jellyfish. Medusae is the result of this three-year collaboration which was the basis of a 30-minute film, one of a series of video-based works by Dorothy Cross that combines the mythology life story of Irish amateur naturalist Maude Delap, with present day scientific research.

Medusae is the Latin term for jellyfish. Drawing on both poetic and literal interpretations of the theme, Dorothy and Tom Cross' Medusae weaves documentary style narratives and explicit demonstrations of the swimming techniques of the jellyfish with vignettes, referencing the imagined and recorded aspects of the life of Maude Delap who lived and worked on the Valentia Island, County Kerry. Medusae explores the notions of mystery and the relationships between art and science, the known and the unknown, the imagined and the real.

Maude Delap was an avid collector of natural specimens from the seas here, which she would send onto the Natural History Museum in Dublin. She collected jellyfish and then bred in bell-jars the Cyanea lamarki and Chrysaora isosceles jellyfish species for advanced studies. The project involved juxtaposing new scientific experiments of Tom Cross' exploration of the swimming techniques (biomechanics) of a deadly species of jellyfish known as the Box Jellyfish found off Queensland, Australia, with historical experiments of Maude Delap. A 30-minute film capturing the beautiful, pulsating movements of the Box jellyfish swimming in their natural territories are interspersed with graphs and charts of Delap's experiments - which were remarkable: breeding, feeding the jellyfish in her home in Valentia. Notes, drawings and charts from Delap's research, alongside new material discovered in making Medusae, as well as some of Dorothy Cross' artwork inspired by Delap, remain on permanent exhibition at the Valentia Heritage Centre.

Staging the first event in the culmination of three years work of the brother-sister, scientist-artist team, on the island where Delap had lived and worked, added poignancy and depth to the project.


Dickinson S. (2003) Valencia:Dorothy Cross and Tom Cross' Medusea 2003 CIRCA. Link: Review

RTE Left Brain Right Brain, Medusa. Artist Dorothy Cross and Marine Zoologist, Professor Tom Cross talk about their collaboration. Recorded on 31 July, 2007. 


Dorothy Cross was born in Cork, 1956. Cross works in a variety of media including sculpture, photography, video and installation. She has been exhibiting regularly since the mid-80s and her witty and inventive investigations of contemporary sexual mores and politics tend to be produced in series. Her first major solo shows were Ebb, at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, in 1988, and Powerhouse at the ICA, Philadelphia, the Hyde Gallery and Camden Arts Centre, London, in 1991. During the 90's she produced two extended series of sculptural works, using cured cowhide and stuffed snakes respectively, which drew on these animals' rich store of symbolic associations across cultures to investigate the construction of sexuality and subjectivity. Over the past few years Cross has devoted increasing amounts of time to the development of large-scale public events and projects, most memorably the award-winning Ghost Ship, an ethereally illuminated light-ship which haunted Dublin Bay for a few weeks in 1998.

Dorothy Cross has participated in numerous group shows internationally including the 1993 Venice Biennial, the 1997 Istanbul Biennial and the 1998 Liverpool Biennial. She also took part in the ground-breaking 1994 exhibition Bad Girls in the ICA London and CCA, Glasgow. Other exhibitions include the 1998 Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self Representation, which was shown at MIT List Art Center, Boston, Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami and the San Francisco MOMA; Skin (with Ernesto Neto and Yoel Davids) at the Cranbrook Museum, Michigan, USA. Recent solo shows have included Angles Gallery, Los Angeles (1997), Mimara Museum, Zagreb (2000), Frith Street Gallery, London (2001) and Kerlin Gallery (2002, 2007).

Her work is included in the collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Norton Collection, Santa Monica, Art Pace Foundation, Texas, the Goldman Sachs Collection, London and the Tate Modern, London, among others. A major retrospective of Dorothy Cross's work took place in June 2005 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Tom Cross is Professor at College of Science, Engineering and Food Science Aquaculture & Fisheries Development Centre, University College, Cork. Major research interests are in molecular genetics and fish culture, but also in aquatic biology and particularly marine biology.

Commission Type Other
Project commission dates May 31, 2000 - May 30, 2003
Partners Fiach Mac Conghail, Producer  Cuan MacConghail, Editor
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Other
Project commission start date 31/05/2000
Project commission end date 30/05/2003
Location Valentia Island
County Kerry
Town County Kerry
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Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Fiach Mac Conghail, Producer

Cuan MacConghail, Editor



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