In the Studio: Vernon O'Meally (Quarantine Edition)
This week, we take a look at the abstract expressionist, Vernon O’Meally, as he self quarantines at the ABXY Gallery in LES. As he prepares his upcoming virtual solo show “Flowers For Minnie”, photographer Madeleine Dalla virtually captured him while getting more insight on his ongoing black & white still life series and how music translates into his work.
Do you remember your first creative moment?
I suppose its two-fold, it was watching my parents and a kindergarten drawing contest I won. My mother would doodle this same flower in a pot and a clown head with a polka-dot bowtie in different variations. My dad went to school a bit for architecture so I figure that’s why he was so very creative.
Once I watched him draw the headline letters on my sister’s science fair project trifold board. He used a polaroid as a straight edge. I watched the entire process and was so amazed by how straight and perfect it was. Today, I apply some unorthodox methods and can use anything to do things. The kindergarten drawing, I loved to draw wasn’t going to win so I did a landscape. After I won, I’ve wanted to be an artist ever since that time.
I see where you get the “art of bouquets” and design background from. Looking at your monochromatic geometrical line-scapes, I see the flowers, remedies, and cartoons. Tell us more about the elements in your ongoing still life series.
This monochromatic series was a kinda back-to-basics thing. I wanted to get everything I could out of black & white and the grayscale with all of the elements and principles of art. So there’s both using it and breaking those rules.
The flowers are a representation of a lot of things; my comfort, life, death, beauty, pleasure, joy, and departure. I fucking love flowers (especially my favorite animal, the monkey face orchid, Dracula Simia) Also, the little white accent flowers people usually add to a bouquet of roses. The flower motif comes out of scribbles using white neocolor, a type of art crayon.
All of these line elements, including my linescrape signature, I did just for line’s sake. I was seeing how far I could push it, and that loopy-type-flower-shape kept coming out so I added the white center with the drop shadow and fell in love. And wanted to make bouquets of it. Then I started cutting out other paintings in the shape of that flower, collaging, and it made shit so much more dynamic.
Of course, my main remedy is red wine and some psychedelics, which I put in my rainbow still life series. For this series, there has been a focus on the whimsical flowers and vases, but I always drink when I paint.
All of the dimensional white elements and circles come from old black & white cartoons. Not exactly, but those small elements I take from it that make that wacky, playful cartoon time from the 1930-1950s. Silly Symphonies is my fave, or my favorite Betty Boop Snow White with Jazz Legend Cab Calloway. His songs and those dance moves are crazy. His legs are already so cartoon-like. I just pulled all visual and musical inspiration, plus all of my art styles together to create a series that conveyed my deepest darkest feelings and other symbolism I subscribed to those elements.
Your work resembles sound frequencies, would you say your work is heavily influenced by music?
Yes, my psychedelic series was all about visual interpretation sounds. Now it’s apart of my signature. Music is always in the back, kinda like being out someplace where music is played; sometimes softly or loud in the back. It’s always on when I paint. Whatever mood I’m in, I’m painting to those grooves. So when I set a still life or do something abstract the music is probably represented in the background.
Earlier this year I went to Yasiin Bey’s aka Mos Def’s listening installation “Negus” at the Brooklyn Museum featuring paintings of artists whose works were a response to the music. If you landed a similar opportunity, what three musicians would you like to collaborate with?
Three musicians: Andre 3000, Frank Ocean, and I would want someone who plays instruments really well for slower groves, or who plays with sounds really well — especially from the environment. I’m gonna go with Melo X and 1da. He’s amazing and his new project Alt-Trap is crazy!!!! Sorry, that’s four, but a mean-ass combo!
Sounds like a good trip. I would like to witness that, or the other way around: composers picking up melodies looking at the frequencies in the paintings. Since you listen to a lot of old school, what artist from the past (and it can be outside of music) would have been a dream collab?
Something I’ve always wanted to do is collaborate with the classical world. For instance, one large ass canvas from one end to the other, with a classical composer, or Deep Purple 1970, Bad Brains in their prime (banned from DC era,) painting the sounds as they play, or with ballerinas painting their movements as they dance. You know? Artists with some kind of interesting sound or movement to capture live. Cab Calloway would’ve been great too, he had it on both ends: the sounds and the movement. Real action painting.
Your upcoming show is virtual due to COVID-19. Has the current quarantine had an impact on your workflow?
The quarantine hasn’t really impacted my workflow, just my time in a good way. Since I’m in the gallery alone, I’m painting every day in self-quarantine. I’m lucky enough to be quarantined in a large space doing what I love, and would’ve been doing regardless. Now with COVID-19, it has impacted the presentation of the show with the virtual exhibit. It’s not the traditional art opening where people come out, drink, converse, etc. However, I’m going to use some of the extra time to experiment with some new work using some of the new elements I’ve added to this collection.
Besides your “Flowers For Minnie” show coming up, are there any other projects we should look out for?
Virtual Exhibition Flowers for Minnie April 23rd at ABXY Gallery LES.
Stay tuned to Milk for more stories on how artists are dealing with COVID-19.