Visual Arts

Reclaiming a Space

Diana Copperwhite, Erin Lawlor, Helen O'Leary, and Dannielle Tegeder



Jan 29, 2024 – Jun 23, 2024



Irish Arts Center 
726 11th Avenue 
Hell's Kitchen, NYC


Four women artists from Ireland and the diaspora explore notions of home, place and displacement, and identity through different media and styles within the practices of abstract art. Representing both the hard-edged and the lyrical, and ranging from oil painting to sculpture, their work shines a light on the genre’s reclamation of physical and cultural spaces that historically have been occupied by more traditional forms within the canon.

This exhibition will feature an artist talk, symposium and reception on Saturday, March 9. Find more information here.

Gallery hours: Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm.
If you would like to view the works outside of these hours please email

The Devlin Café at Irish Arts Center will be open during visiting hours on February 3, 17, 24, March 2, 16, April 13, 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18, and June 8.

Featured images: Diana Copperwhite, Human Nature; Helen O'Leary, Writing the Unwritable Novel; Diana Copperwhite, Wall Flowers; Helen O'Leary, Shelter–Writing the Unwritable Novel; Erin Lawlor, electric sheep; Dannielle Tegeder, Eeg Aagh Oooh


This exhibition aims to shine a light on current practices in abstract art through the work of four women artists, Irish or of Irish origin, and who are in direct dialogue with New York—the fertile ground of cross-pollination between cultures is very much in evidence here. These artists are distinct in their practice and approach: working in a range of media, stylistically speaking, they run the full gamut from hard-edge abstraction to the lyrical. Yet there are common themes—explorations around a sense of place, translations of the musical world to the physical—that might constitute the beginning of a key to a sense of cultural identity. 

Painting and sculpture provide the opportunity for a reclaiming of space, for the physical translation of a psychological reconstruction. All these artists, with their close experience of displacement, engage with that: Helen O’Leary’s sculptural wooden constructions constitute a literal building and rebuilding, in reference to her young life in rural Wexford and the very real concern of rebuilding the family home after natural disaster and tragedy. Dannielle Tegeder’s paintings also refer to the architectonic, refracted through a constructivist approach, and with a focus on the role of architecture, urban spaces, and utopian thinking. Diana Copperwhite, whose work cites both Irish modernism and the New York School, seeks to recreate a sense of the refraction of light reminiscent of her childhood years on the west coast of Ireland. The paintings are portals for journeying through time and space, multiplying through her online travelings. Erin Lawlor, a child of the diaspora, evokes the notion of home as a psychological construct; she uses painting as an ideal place of liminality, of projection and synthesis, under the twin prisms of the European and New York painting traditions. 

Musical references abound here, too: O’Leary has evoked the importance of the old Irish laments, or sean nós, with regard to her work, and there is an evident lyricism in the paintings of both Copperwhite and Lawlor. Tegeder has even developed collaborations and direct dialogues between abstraction and music. 

Abstract art has traditionally been less immediately visible in Ireland, and yet, beyond more recent, specific dialogues with modernist movements, there is a rich tradition of abstraction in the country’s visual vernacular that is almost all-pervasive, and subversively political. This exhibition attempts the beginning of a recognition of that tradition and its extensions; a reclaiming of place, and space, within the art-historical canon. 

Watch the March 9, 2024 artist talk, moderated by Dr. Angela Griffith and Jason Stopa:

Reclaiming a Space Artist Talk

Presented with generous support from Culture Ireland.


Our Supporters

Irish Arts Center programs are supported, in part, by government, foundation, and corporate partners including Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; Howard Gilman Foundation; Tourism Ireland; the Jerome L. Greene Foundation; the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation; the Charina Endowment Fund; the Ireland Funds; the Shubert Foundation, Inc.; the Arnhold Foundation; the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; the Irish Institute of New York; the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, New York; Northern Ireland Bureau; Invest NI; CIE Tours International; the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate of Ireland in New York; and thousands of generous donors like you.


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