Local lawyer recasts herself as artist

Local lawyer recasts herself as artist

Artist Sara O’Connor stands beside one of her paintings.	
(Photo courtesy of Sara O’Connor)
Artist Sara O’Connor stands beside one of her paintings. (Photo courtesy of Sara O’Connor)

Some people are lucky enough to change life with the stroke of a brush. Sara O’Connor, a one-time lawyer in downtown Pittsburgh, did so 18 months ago with a career-altering decision. After feeling “frustrated” by work, which included handling commercial disputes, insurance coverage and products liability cases, the former Erie, Pa., native, chose to leave her law practice and become an artist.

The professional deracination, which may seem surprising, was actually done quite “rationally,” she said.

It was something that she and her husband had been mulling over a while and not something “where we woke up and said, ‘I’m done with law.’”

O’Connor, 30, altered course just four years into her legal career. The move, she said, was precipitated by her foray into the art world. During her fourth year of practice, O’Connor, a granddaughter of a Shoah survivor, began painting and submitting works for competition. After several months of attempting to balance her legal responsibilities with her artistic aspirations, O’Connor committed to the latter.

“It reached a point, nine months into it, that I realized I couldn’t go to juried art shows and meet people who really loved my work if I was still working as a lawyer,” she said.

As an attorney, “the needs of your client have to come first, even if it’s on the weekend. I didn’t feel comfortable committing to a show if there was no guarantee that I could do the show.”

Easing the transition to her new trade are former colleagues and friends. The group has been so supportive that several of them are actually buyers.

Rebekah Siegel, a friend from law school, commissioned two pieces.

While serving as O’Connor’s real estate agent, “I went over to the house and saw all of the beautiful art. Sarah’s pieces are so unique that I really couldn’t live without one,” Siegel said.

“She is an unstoppable creative force and has such a vibrant energy,” remarked Mia Baltutat, a friend of O’Connor’s, who added, “I was one of the first people to purchase her art. I loved that you can turn each piece and find something new to look at. I have eight or nine pieces of her work and will continue collecting as she ventures into new styles of art.”

For now, O’Connor maintains three primary styles: marble abstract, pointillism and kooky kritters, as she calls them. Based upon Thai artist’s depictions of elephants, the latter are more whimsical and juvenile in nature.

“They are a little more commercial for me, but I like how happy they make people,” O’Connor said.

For her marble abstracts, which resemble geodes, she relies heavily on recycled materials.

“I collect paint from local house painters and contractors and use that almost exclusively to create beautiful and sustainable art.”

And finally, of the three styles, the last, pointillism, is her “favorite to work on.” The reason is that “I find it incredibly relaxing to create,” she said.

With its textured quality, O’Connor finds her creations to be different from other pointillist efforts.

“People often tell me I want to pet your art,” she said. “I tell them you are certainly able to pet it if you pay for it.”

For those interested, purchasing opportunities are around the corner. O’Connor’s works will be available at the upcoming Three Rivers Arts Festival from June 2 to 11, and the artist will be present at Booth 202 in Park Side on June 9-11.

Two months later, she will return again, on Aug. 26-27 for the Shadyside Art Festival.

Other ventures are occurring elsewhere, but of all of the upcoming events, the one that she is most excited about is the one most festival-goers may miss.

During the month of February 2018, the U.S. District Courthouse for the Western District of Pennsylvania will display several of O’Connor’s works. And that fact has the former lawyer a bit enthused.

“First of all, it’s really hard to get into and really prestigious,” she said of her works’ selection for public viewing, adding, “Also, I was admitted into that courthouse, so to have an absurdly [important] legal institution in our state have my work is the coolest marriage of the two parts of who I am. It’s such an honor.”  

>> More information on Sara O’Connor’s art is available at saraoconnorfineart.com.

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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