"Corresponding is a lost art.” It may sound like a strange thing for an art gallery owner to say, but Mary O’Connor and her husband, Patrick, have a special connection to the written word. They opened the 60 East Gallery almost exactly a year ago on Market Street, featuring Patrick’s large canvases as well as the work of other painters, sculptors, and glass workers. But it is Patrick’s smaller paintings that bridge the space between the visual arts and the fading practice of sending paper mail.
The O’Connors’ son, Tyler, serves our nation as a Navy SEAL.
When he deployed overseas, they wanted to send him something that would truly represent his home and all he, and his comrades, are fighting for. They wanted him to know how very proud they are of him.
So Patrick used masking tape to frame the front half of a sheet of watercolor paper, folded into a note card, and painted within that frame. He recalled the pastoral scenes of his family’s heritage in Ireland and their love of being in the woods.
“When you create something that is truly personal and you add words that come straight from your heart, as Mary does, you have sent more than a card,” says Patrick. “You have sent them a tangible piece of home.”
The cards are true works of art, and framing them is the perfect way to keep them safe and preserve the cherished words inside. “Tyler will group three of them in the order in which they came and frame them together,” Mary says. Other folks have turned the cards into wine bottle labels.
The O’Connors have shared their passion for paper mail with school children in Elmira. Bringing a stack of blank cards, paints, and a hair dryer, they have taught them to make their own masterpieces. “When we pull the tape off and they see what they created as a real card to be mailed, they are amazed,” Patrick smiles.
For the rest of us, the cards are available for purchase at the Gallery or online (www.60eastgallery.com). 60 East also, of course, sells the art adorning the walls. Mary and Patrick, who both work full time jobs in the fitness industry, strive to feature artists not represented elsewhere on Market Street. Open primarily on the weekends, the O’Connors are hoping to tap into area colleges to find students who will help them expand their hours, while gaining gallery management experience.
“Art is about connections between people,” Mary says, “and we enjoy helping that engagement happen.”