Response to the Archive: Bridget’s Concert by Delia Robinson

Delia Robinson
Bridget’s Concert (acrylic on a Basswood panel, 12″ x 12″)
Responding to Tom Davis’s ‘The Sound Of Falling’

A lifetime given to art has revealed my disregard for accepted techniques, themes, and standards. I use paint and clay and song to explore the mysteries behind apparent reality. Dream, alienation, and tragedy are mined as source material and if there is a funny side, so much the better. That has long been my custom but as I looked over the “Warp and Weft” materials, I was totally unprepared to be melted by a few minutes of music. The emotion evoked by Tom Davis’s composition, “The Sound Of Falling,” allowed me to more clearly see how the pandemic has re-shaped my artistic life.

“Bridget’s Concert” reveals the elements of that year.

The first layer of paint is flat, intense, and strongly defined. Colors are not pure from the tube but are broken with closely related hues. This, in my view, heightens the drama in a landscape almost devoid of detail.

Bridget herself is playing a whistle. Clay whistles have been made by four generations of my family and it was whistles that provided a path for me to advance from simple folk instruments to unique musical sculptures. They enchant me, combining music and creative enticement.

The whistles have been much praised but a critic once wrote that my paintings looked as if they’d been “scratched by dogs.” It was so. Everything was blotted out, glued over, or clawed with obliterating strokes. No more. Now I simply show Bridget, the “first woman in Ireland to make a whistle,” calling her sisters to her in the night. Brigid’s sisters may be a bit unusual, as are my own five sisters and a crew of non-family chosen sisters. My beloved girl-dog Maybe, who died 6 months into the pandemic, makes a re-appearance, as does a mama bear who sometimes visits me in dreams. My chicken Emily is in the spotlight, a witty hen who used to relax on the kitchen counter snuggled in a roasting pan. A wild bird is in the tree, attracted by the whistle’s trilling voice. The shapes and colors have been selected to provide a path for the eye, holding the viewer in the painting long enough to traverse it once or twice.

Finally there is a book that provoked this vision. Early in Covid, I undertook a study of surrealist Leonora Carrington. Her odd writings delight me but her art? Mystifying. An art historian said “if you want to understand Carrington’s work, you need to read ‘Complete Irish Mythology’ by Lady Gregory, friend of the poet Yeats and patron to the Celtic Revival.” Amazingly, I received this book for Christmas. The first page presented this story of Brigit in one sentence. Instantly I was rushing to the workroom to begin painting, little realizing how much would be revealed on one small Basswood panel.

[Montpelier, Vermont]

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