Jamie O’Neill mixes coastal, industrial, graffiti influences
Hometown: Originally from Nantucket, lives in Gloucester, but calls Plymouth home.
Think of: “I hear a lot of people compare me to [Edward] Hopper. I rarely render people,” O’Neill said. “I’ve always felt like a kindred to him and his appreciation of architecture and boats when he was younger.”
What caught our eye: O’Neill’s unique way of layering classic logos, like those of freight train companies, with modern street art and graffiti.
Light bulb moment: “There was this one artist — I can’t remember his name — he took me to his studio and gave me a sketchbook,” O’Neill said of a time when he was 9 or 10 years old. “He took me for a ride. He had built a little skiff — just the way he took me seriously and gave me the attention,” O’Neill said. “It definitely flipped a switch. Going to his house, seeing his wife, seeing how they lived. I realized this is what I want. This is how I want to live. It’s always stuck with me as one of those experiences.”
Biggest thrill: “There was this thing in New Hampshire [my artist friends and I] did where we were invited to show in a gallery, but also invited to speak to kids who were disadvantaged and explain to the kids our hustle,” O’Neill said. “We tried to tell them how you can become your own boss if you believe in yourself, to try to inspire them to stick with it, not give up, how it’s OK to be different. . . . Onstage, these kids looked so wide-eyed, and were hanging on every word. I really believe it’s 90 percent effort, 10 percent talent. I could see through their eyes, I wasn’t in their place anymore.”
Inspired by: “I would say I’m inspired by my two best friends, Sean [Flood] and Percy [Fortini-Wright],” O’Neill said. “Their work is constantly blowing me away, as well as my wife’s, Elizabeth Kirby Sullivan. She’s also a painter as well, and is also a huge asset to me all through the process. I kind of bounce ideas off of her and get feedback. Those are friends and people I know.” “I do look at contemporary artists,” O’Neill added, “but I always seem to go back to the [Andrew] Wyeths and Hoppers and stuff from that time period.”
Aspires to: “A goal would be to have shows on the West Coast and around the country, and ideally around the world in other countries,” O’Neill said. “I could go from Jamaica Plain to Boston, spread it around New England, and someday say, oh, yeah, my Switzerland gallery. It seems amazing that you could have fans from so far away from where you are, and have this wider audience.”
For good luck: “I’m most comfortable standing around my studio, and I always say to myself , I’d like to have these things organized and have it nice and clean,” O’Neill said. “But I seem to work best in chaos and a mess. Organized chaos.” “I’m most productive at night when everyone’s gone to bed,” he added. “When it’s quiet and I’m not distracted. Something about those late-night sessions makes it feel like you’re in your own world — reminds me of graffiti.”
What people should know: “A lot of artists get sort of pigeonholed, or their work sort of gets all in one direction or one look to it . . . but I’m interested in all aspects of painting from abstract to renaissance to modern,” O’Neill said. “I [can paint] the look of the ocean, but I do live in the city so I can shift gears into that mode too. I don’t ever want it to be one or the other. I can paint a number of subjects, I guess.”
Coming soon: O’Neill is the subject of a solo exhibition called “In Between the Lines” at Lot F Gallery on Pearl Street, which runs through Feb. 27.