“If I Had the Words” is an intergenerational art exhibit created by artists Natalie Steigmann-Gall and Tim Connor. The collaboration began when Steigmann-Gall, a talented painter and elder companion, was connected with Tim Connor, a retired street photographer, writer, and editor living with primary progressive aphasia. This neurological disorder gradually compromises Tim’s ability to communicate verbally and in writing, leading him to explore new avenues of artistic expression. 

When Tim and his wife Lucy Winner decided to hire a care companion to assist Tim, they were connected with a fellow artist, Natalie Steigmann-Gall, who was 50 years Tim’s junior. What developed was an artistic bond and deep friendship between Steigmann-Gall and Connor. Together, they began visiting museums and galleries, engaging in museum workshops, and making art side-by-side. Before long, speaking a shared language of art, they stepped into each other’s world and began to collaborate. “Natalie is very sensitive to Tim as an artist and as a human”, Lucy shares. “They’ve formed a wonderful friendship.”

Their resulting exhibit is a collection of Tim’s drawings, collages, enhanced photographs, and Natalie’s paintings of her elder clients. The title of the exhibition is inspired by a quote from Edward Hopper, one of Tim’s favorite artists: “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” Tim’s thoughtfully selected quote speaks to the profound impact of aphasia on one’s ability to articulate experiences verbally. It also serves as a reminder that, even in the face of cognitive disorders, art can become a powerful language that transcends words. Lucy Winner explains, “This project represents an explosion of a different type of visual creativity for Tim–an ability in visual arts has always been present in Tim, and now it’s his most valuable form of expression.”

The exhibition not only showcases the artistic collaboration but also serves as a platform for Tim to express himself in new ways. Through his art, he finds confidence and a renewed ability to communicate, a testament to the power of creative expression. 

Natalie’s role as a caregiver inspires intimate portraits of her clients in their homes. By using her clients as subjects of her artwork, she aims to convey the challenges and rewards of aging.

The presentation of Tim’s work at both his assisted living facility and at a commercial art gallery has served to destigmatize his diagnosis, showcasing the artist’s journey and accomplishments.  

Despite the challenges and losses experienced by Tim Connor, the collaboration with Natalie Steigmann-Gall represents a gain, not a loss. He creates art for 3-4 hours a day, and his identity as an artist continues to bloom.

If I Had the Words runs from Friday, February 2nd–Sunday February 25th with an opening reception on Friday, February 2nd from 7-9pm. Established Gallery is located at 75B 6th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Gallery hours are Thursday–Sunday from 3–8pm. They are also available by appointment. You may visit them online at https://www.establishedgallery.com/ or call them at (929) 255-4739.

Follow the artists on Instagram:

Tim Connor @timpconnor

Natalie Steigmann-Gall @natmaxedart

Established Gallery @established_gallery_