By the same sea, homes of the Irish diaspora
solo exhibition at The Custom House Studios + Gallery
The Quay, Westport, County Mayo, Ireland
Paintings by Maureen O’Leary
Works in the exhibition
This solo exhibition brings together several of Maureen O’Leary’s small scale paintings of suburban Long Island homes. Unremarkable and repetitious in shape and design, these houses offer many opportunities to paint the effects of light as it breaks a landscape into major shapes creating graphic linkages between buildings and nature. Depicted are the neighborhoods of second and third generation Irish Americans whose ancestors escaped famine and hardship in Europe. This body of work references O’Leary’s own ethnicity as an assimilating Irish American. Like the metaphor embodied in the cottage that is New York City’s Irish Hunger Memorial, a home abandoned in the Great Famine and transported stone by stone from County Mayo, the house is an icon of the most tragic period of Irish emigration. The quotidian speaks to history.
Observing the new homes of Irish Americans today, the product of escape and rebirth, it can be said that Long Island homes and western Ireland homes remain, geographically, each other’s first and last points of contact, separated only the by Atlantic Ocean. These two sets of homes form an Irish-American continuum, a metaphorical neighborhood. The small homes that ramble over hills visible from commuter trains and car windows for a hundred miles outside of New York City are the effigies of a new life. The intimate scale of the paintings speaks to the contemplation windows afford a commuter going to or from New York City.