Hamilton Gallery in Sligo invited 90 women artists to respond to a Leland Bardwell poem in celebration of her life and legacy. 

St. Brigid’s Day 1989 – Leland Bardwell

The women’s calls
go up across the lake.
On this still day their voices
whip the air – staccato notes
behind the reed-hushed margin.

Winter is writing out its past
before its time
while they trail the shore
anxious to garner reeds
for Brigid’s Cross, bending
in all their different flesh-shapes
like shoppers to admire a bud,
an early primrose, a robin
shrilly calling to its mate.

Although I gather rushes
like these strolling women
I’m made conscious
of the decades that divide us
and that I should be celebrating
Brigid in her strength
of fruitfulness and learning.

I can only offer her the satchel of these years,
I too, will make a cross, for luck and irony.
Amongst the witches coven I will raise my glass
so my children’s children’s children
will gather rushes for her turning.

This was my response:

Follow, oil on canvas, 30cm x 30cm, 2018 Photography Dickon Whitehead

‘Follow’ centres on the notion of womanhood and the sisterhood women share regardless of nationality, culture or creed. Brigid is found in many cultures. For me she signifies intelligence, courage, determination, nature and creativity. My choice of model for the portrait embodies all these qualities communicating them to us via her gaze. She is old enough to be a mother but young enough to be a daughter subtly suggesting the passing on of these strengths through the generations.

The exhibition began in London at The 12 Star Gallery in Europe House for Brigid’s Day and subsequently travelled to Sligo and Dublin in Ireland. It toured to The Irish Embassy in Berlin, Germany where it formed a focal part of their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and remained on display until April 26th 2019.

Follow the link to see the rest of the work in the exhibition:
St. Brigid’s Day Exhibition 90 women artists’ response to the work of Leland Bardwell