Carol O’Malia, Locked in Joy
What do boxing, water, pillows and snow have to do with one another? All are painted by the artist, Carol O'Malia. She paints a muscular boxer in knockout, blue shadows on snow, the translucent folds of crumpled, piled pillows and the summer delights of children playing in the water.
In West Branch’s current Water show, O’Malia has four waterscapes, each one a frolic in summer, from a child bobbing on the water to a lone lawn chair on a dock, waiting for a wet bathing suit and a summer read. “I wanted to take these moments in time and to lock them in joy.” And joy is what one experiences when viewing these paintings. The silky lake water, a glowing transparent inner tube and the lone lawn chair on a dock, the raw elegance of an older boy getting ready to dive off a raft into a pond, droplets of water like stars floating through a child’s fingers, the gauzy reflection of a little girl’s bathing suit under water. All these paintings evoke those wonderful memories of childhood in water; vacations on the lake, diving off a raft, learning to swim in the neighborhood pool.
From a distance, these paintings are tight and realistic, but up close you are caught up in the physical surface as paint, the color as mood, the deft ability to capture the essence of water. This is what separates a painting from a photograph – that rich density of oil paint and the deep pigments glowing on a canvas.
Water Lily, oil on canvas, 40×40 inches, gives you the feeling of being in the water as a child and feeling the resistance, the weight of water as a mass to be moved. The joyful feeling of being held up, aloft, afloat, weightless and yet the effort it takes to make your way through the water. Another oil, Seeing Stars, 24×24 inches, presents us with the back of a little girl but in this painting she is held rapt, seeing the diamond sparkles in the water; all is suspended. In The Getaway, 36×36 inches, a teenage boy has swum onto a raft, wet and alone, either ready to dive back in or to stay. And, Marking Time, 48×48 inches, with lawn chair, a child’s inner tube and the dock — those inanimate objects, waiting for the human to inhabit them. Yet on their own, they evoke summer and heat, joy and ease.
“In a moment, the light will change, the shadows will move,” O’Malia said. “In a flash, the child is grown.” Her paintings are psychological images, evoking mood, not only of the person, but of the place itself. We experience in them the delight of swimming to the raft, the relief of lounging in a beach chair, and the enchantment of sunlight on water. Whether Carol O’Malia is painting pillowscapes, snowscapes or waterscapes, you can bet you’ll be drawn in. Captivated in time and locked in joy.