Painting Daily: Journals at the Source
An Exhibition Inspired by the Diary of Mary Cooper
Earle-Wightman House Gallery
I stumbled upon a treasure trove of my own journals, while at the same time discovering that Mary Cooper began keeping one in 1768... The exhibition explores what we have discovered about Mary's life and mine, and the journals that give a bird's eye view of each person's unique perspective.
-- Beth Vendryes Williams, curator of Painting Daily
Artist Beth Vendryes-Williams explores the tradition of journal writing and sketching in an exhibition where viewers—through a combination of writing, drawing, painting, collage, and photography—examine the many ways journals can creatively document an individual’s feelings and ideas over the course of a lifetime.
The Diary of Mary Cooper
The surviving entries of Mary Cooper’s diary begin on October 3, 1768, and continue with many gaps to October 1773. It is apparently the only extant diary from colonial New York written by a woman, and so offers an intimate and personal look at the domestic, agricultural, religious, and social doings of Oyster Bay. In 1981, the Oyster Bay Historical Society published a transcription of the diary, edited by Field Horne. As Mr. Horne writes in the editor’s introduction:
Each form of historical evidence contributes to the whole of our knowledge of a past culture. The private diary, intended only for the writer’s eyes, reveals personal thoughts and feelings in a way that other historical records may not. The specifics of a matter may be missing from a diary; unlike correspondence, the private diary does not spell out the constants. But it does admit us further unto the writer’s life than most other documents.
That The Diary of Mary Cooper is an important primary source in the historical record is undeniable. But as Painting Daily: Journals at the Source indicates, Mary Cooper’s writing can also inspire us to look back at the records we may keep of our own personal lives, and at the work to which we devote our days.