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MAG’s 15 minutes of fame

We posted in January about an opportunity to collaborate with local painter and photographer, Brian O’Neill, who was close to finished with a project that he had been working on for nearly a year. It was also a project that included a group of dancers from the Rochester City Ballet. [read original our post here]

a behind the scenes shot

a ‘behind the scenes’ shot of the photo shoot

One of the goals of this project is a month long exhibit of paintings to benefit the RCB at the Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester  with an opening reception on 4-4-14. In another twist of fate, this will be the last exhibition at this location.

To quote the DandC article Brian O’Neill has found his ‘MUSE :

“O’Neill’s show will be the last public exhibition at the Arts and Cultural Council’s home at 277 N. Goodman St. before its planned relocation. The move — to Kodak Center for Performing Arts, 200 W. Ridge Road — is bittersweet, O’Neill says, because the organization has provided so much support for emerging artists, including O’Neill.” [read the full article]

We spoke with Brian, while planning on attending the opening, and asked him if he would share some thoughts on how this HUGE project came to be. He also shared a preview of one of the finished pieces with us.

“Renaissance Gallery” 20x16 oil on masonite

“Renaissance Gallery” 20×16 oil on masonite

“The spark of inspiration for the MUSE collaboration with Rochester City Ballet came on a beautiful Sunday morning last summer while sitting on my front porch at 7 am with my partner Jim. We were talking about art and how much I had been enjoying working with local dancers as models in my paintings. It was Jim’s idea to ask Jamey Leveret, Artistic Director of RCB if there was any interest in working together and using the dancers as models.

I remember the feeling of a ‘zing’ running through me and knew I was supposed to do this. Jamey and I already knew each other and we were looking for a way to work together, I sent her an email that morning and she responded within five minuets with a resounding ‘yes!’ From that point I knew this needed to be big, big in the sense of not holding back and pushing the boundaries of my work by combining realism with abstract and sometimes within the same painting. I also knew I wanted to paint the dancers in Rochester’s amazing natural and architectural beauty.

I began to reach out to local institutions such as The George Eastman House, Memorial Art Gallery and City Hall as well important private homes like the Alcoa House in Brighton, the Senators Mansion in Churchville and the Boynton House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright so I could do photo shoots with the dancers to get the source material for the paintings. With each instance everyone was so excited and open to helping me pull this off which really speaks to the fact the art is important and Rochester is a city that wants to support it’s development.

I would be lying if I said that there were not times that were extremely stressful and challenging. During the nine month process of making this collection life had other ideas. After living in our 110 year old home on Dartmouth Street for 8 years and painstakingly restoring every inch of it we sold and moved to a home half the size in Corn Hill that required some major renovation itself. Anyone who has ever moved knows how stressful that can be. With selling, buying a new home and working on this collection at times I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do this. In the middle of it all I tore the tendon in my right arm and yes, that’s my painting arm. I wasn’t able to paint for 8 weeks and the thing I valued so much and formed so much of my identity from as an artist suddenly wasn’t there and not only was it physically difficult but emotionally as well. Fortunately, through a lot of physical therapy and a positive attitude I was back and working again with a deepened appreciation for my gift and an even greater willingness to continue.

I just did a count of the number of pieces in this collection and it reaches forty [bold inserted by MAG] in total with twenty realism pieces and twenty abstract and a few that cross the boundaries and live in both worlds. There were some very long days at the easel and during those countless hours I have come out of this feeling more evolved as a painter. I have been reminded once again of three main ingredients I have found to be essential traits of a successful artist, which are openness, willingness and fearlessness. Being open to new ideas and a willingness to carry them out and not letting fear stop me from seeking out the paths to seeing them become reality.”

Brian did mention that he is ‘sound byte’ challenged, but it is great to hear the full story behind the results. We can’t wait to see the exhibition.

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