Sabina Mac Mahon
… in no case are we bound to believe in the reality of any historical fact or narrative, much less in the truth of any miraculous event, unless it comes to us attested by evidence which, on the face of it, bears plain marks of credibility.
– ‘The Holy House of Loreto’, The Catholic Layman, Vol IV, No. 41, May 1855
Sabina Mac Mahon’s practice is concerned with the creation of visual and factual dilemmas through the appropriation and alteration of photographic images and other objects that are (re-)presented as primary sources and often accompanied by explanatory texts. The history and theory of early photography, archaeology, hagiography, belief and museum practice are central to her work, which currently involves various investigations into the lives of saints, historical figures and Biblical characters whose biographies exist somewhere between actual fact and legendary fiction.
Mac Mahon is interested in how a truthlikeness or quality of realism in something, combined with the manner in which it is presented to the viewer, can lead to its acceptance as true or real because of the likeness of the proposition to the truth.
Texts used to inform her work range from the Roman Martyrology (list of saints officially recognised by the Church) to less-reliable medieval biographies such as The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine and contemporary interpretations recounted on the internet. Traditional narrative and devotional images in Western art are also an important resource, and Mac Mahon’s work usually references painting, drawing, print and sculpture dating from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.