Maureen O’Leary’s Suburban Vernacular

Art Shape Mammoth
Nov 7, 2017 11:06PM

By Athena Axiomakaros

Maureen O'Leary, Untitled, 46" x 46", oil on linen

Maureen O’Leary’s recent show at the West Gallery at the Earlville Opera House, “What's not to like but everything”, is the final installment in what she retrospectively calls her trilogy showcasing paintings inspired from her experiences as a transplant to Long Island. The first installment began with her show in 2015, “Honey Lane” at One Arts Center in Burlington, Vermont and continued with “havens. Hangars” at Wayfarers in Brooklyn alongside painter David Shaughnessy in 2016.

Maureen O'Leary, Untitled, 46" x 46", oil on linen

Her recent work focusing on the suburban landscape was catalyzed by her move from the urban environments of Washington D.C., New York City, and Baltimore. She contrasts this urban decay she loved during the 1990’s to the dystopically beautiful suburbs of Long Island and the relationship between urban and suburban spaces. The relationship the village of Earlville has to nearby cities such as Syracuse and Binghamton cannot be ignored when compared to the relationship that her town in Long Island has to New York City, though on a different scale.

Maureen O'Leary, Untitled, 46" x 46", oil on linen

When first moving to Long Island, O’Leary was strongly influenced by the films of Hal Hartley, specifically The Unbelievable Truth and Trust, and his intimate portrayals of suburban life on the island. She credits his films as a strong inspiration for her approaching the visual language of suburban life in a similar manner and seeing the beauty and simplicity in the small domestic moments on the island. These subtle images of everyday life are not, however, quite what they appear. In a greater sense, these images embody a universal American suburban experience encapsulated in the sometimes disregarded ordinary activities of daily life: fall leaves being tended to, watering plants, quiet moments on the porch, mowing the grass, summer barbeques. These domestic and sometimes unremarkable events captured in her work elevate contemporary suburban culture from common domestic moments to those of contemplation. Those of us living on Long Island and other suburbs cannot deny that life has a strange, enchanting beauty to it once you allow yourself to open up to the experience of it.

Maureen O'Leary, Untitled, 30" x 30", oil on linen

Maureen O'Leary, Untitled, 40" x 10", oil on linen

O’Leary explains that her experiences creating these paintings has taught her that as an artist, she is optimistic that she can find inspiration in even the smallest moments wherever she is and has come to see her inner artist as a romantic rather than an ironist through the path this series of paintings has taken her on.

Maureen O'Leary's “What's not to like but everything” at the West Gallery in the Earlville Opera House Earlville, NY is open from September 9 - October 28, 2017 Opening September 9, 12-3pm. Artist talk, September 30 at 1pm

Athena Axiomakaros is a Ph.D. candidate in the Institute for Doctoral Studies, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY.

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