Sire. by Maria McKinney is an innovative exploration of the themes of selective breeding and genetics in contemporary cattle farming, directly informed by The MERL’s collections of livestock portraiture and straw craft.

The exhibition consists of nine largescale photographic portraits, taken at an Irish stud farm, that depict bulls wearing eccentric, multi-coloured sculptures mounted on their backs. In their kaleidoscopic mix of shapes and sizes, the sculptures reference some of the different qualities farmers have looked to breed into modern cattle such as higher milk yields, more muscle, increased resilience to extreme climates, and lack of horns.

McKinney visited The MERL whilst researching for Sire. in 2015. Alongside collaborations with contemporary farmers and scientists, The MERL’s collections of livestock portraiture and strawcraft informed the finished series. Bringing together the photographs and sculptures for Sire in an immersive installation in The MERL’s open access stores, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to experience McKinney’s work in direct conversation with collections that inspired it.