Gail Patterson is not a typical doctor, just as Out of the Fire is not your typical local restaurant. What these two have in common, though, is what makes them so unique. And it’s a pairing worth exploring.
First, the doctor: Patterson is a year away from retirement after a long and distinguished career as an anesthesiologist. Beyond her regular responsibilities, Patterson devoted more than two decades to volunteering in low- and middle-income countries, providing anesthesia and medical relief. Her global travels, undertaken alongside her profound commitment to her profession, led her to amass an impressive art collection, primarily focusing on Haitian and African pieces.
“There was war, poverty, and degradation all over the world,” she said. ‘But the opposite of that was not peace and contentment. It was creation. Art seemed to be the most hopeful and powerful – the opposite of soul-crushing.”
It became something Patterson knew she wanted to share with others.
In 2012, Patterson established her online gallery, Spiralis, and was accepted into prestigious art fairs such as Art Basel in Miami and the Outsider Art Fair in New York City (‘the’ premier fair dedicated to self-taught art). “I was very lucky,” she said about being selected so early on in her new endeavor. But running an art gallery while working 80+ hours a week in ORs soon became an overwhelming challenge. Although she continued to collect art, she temporarily put her gallery idea aside until it could be a full-time pursuit.
With her retirement around the corner, Patterson is now ready.
As before, Spiralis focuses on Afro-Caribbean works and ‘outsider’ self-taught artists. “I’ve always felt that there’s something special about self-taught, honest art, without the confines and conventions of classical art teaching. It is just something that comes out of an artist’s soul and has to go into the world,” said Patterson.
Enter Out of the Fire, known for its wood-fired cuisine, fresh ingredients, curated wine list, and welcoming atmosphere. Its walls have also served as a canvas for local artists to exhibit their artwork and for diners to experience while enjoying their food. Patterson, a long-time customer of the establishment, had always appreciated the ever-changing art, which brought “new and vibrant energy to the restaurant.”
It was restaurant owner Amy Haines who suggested a collaboration—given that Spiralis Gallery didn’t yet have space in Easton, how about doing something at Out of the Fire? Patterson invited Hines to view her collection, and that made it happen for both. “When I saw her art work, I was immediately taken by it and thought this could be really powerful,” Hines said, adding: “This is the first time I’ve hosted a gallery and have had art done by other than local artists.”
The collaboration works. “Amy has been lovely and incredibly kind. She’s deeply supportive,” said Patterson.” And that support has extended to patrons of both art and the restaurant. Patterson was gratified and surprised at the sizable crowd attending the opening night of the Out of the Fire Spiralis exhibition, titled Things Fall Together. Word-of-mouth has further fueled interest since then.
Running through October 1st, the exhibition features works by Haitian artist Mireille Delice who incorporates sequins and beads in his designs; Haitian impressionist Desarmes; oil painter Gerard; Liberian artist Leslie Lumeh; ONEL (aka Lionel Paul), whose work is highlighted on the postcard; and others.
The display also showcases pieces by local creators represented by Patterson, including Holly Jackson, a young fiber artist who uses centuries-old embroidery techniques to address modern issues such as climate change and women’s rights. Their partnership surprised Jackson: “When you are self-taught and make something really different, the gallery route usually seems reserved for those with formal art school education. But with Gail’s selection of artists, there is a shared commonality that I can’t name, but it’s there. There is also a message that she wants to make it easier for me to continue to do exactly what I’ve been doing and it feels right.”
But it is not only the artist whose lives Patterson wants to touch or change through the works she chooses for her gallery. “I want to be able to spark meaningful conversations through story-driven art,” she says. “You can love, hate, understand, or not get it at all, just so it starts a human conversation.” She also hopes to build connections with underserved groups in Easton, including the local Haitian population, by teaming up with Chesapeake Multicultural Center. “I would like to create some community where maybe none exists.” Lastly, she hopes the gallery can be a spiritual experience, echoing the sentiments expressed in a quote by Haitian artist Denis Smith (translated from Creole): “It’s not really me that travels the world. It’s my spirit through my artwork.”
For now, these and other spirits can be seen either at Out of the Fire or on the Spiralis website. There you will also find some helpful features, including ‘View it in a Room,’ where you can visualize a piece you’re interested in above a bed or bench or an augmented reality function that allows you to project the art onto a wall in your home. And that’s important for Patterson, who emphasizes the sensory and organic nature of art appreciation: “Art is an experience that should bring joy and connection.”
Patterson is grateful that Easton, including the art community, has been receptive and welcoming, and she looks forward to bringing some new voices into the Easton art scene. She may be retiring from medicine, but her next chapter is just beginning.
Spiralis Gallery: https://spiralisgallery.com
Out of the Fire: 111 South Washington St., Easton, MD. https://www.outofthefire.com