by Anura Guruge
Click image to access this post from 7-years ago.
There is an article about him in this magazine,
and you will RECOGNIZE some images (above).
The first time I ever saw a James O’Neil painting was 7-years ago, at an art gallery in Northeast Harbor (Acadia, Maine). I & Devanee (who was into paintings then) stood mesmerized. I (as you can see from the post above) immediately made a connection with Andrew Wyeth — & I even discussed it with the manager of the gallery who concurred. We were no strangers to Wyeth. My wife, who was born & grew up in Cushing, Maine — where Wyeth did most of his iconic work — knew Wyeth. Her aunty, ‘Siri‘, was featured in quite a few of Wyeth’s works. A large reproduction Wyeth has hung in our informal dining room since we moved into our house. So for us to think of him as Wyeth, reincarnated, took some doing. But, he is good. He, in my opinion, is brilliant. Immensely gifted & committed to his craft.
That he is Wyethian is no accident or coincidence. Wyeth was a major influence & James even spent time in Cushing.
7-years ago I was unaware of another American painter, John Noble. But, thanks to “Irving Stone’s” ‘The Passionate Journey’ (1949) that I ploughed through a few months ago, I know more about him than I really wanted to know. I am now struck by similarities between John Noble & James O’Neil in terms of their use light, fascination with the sea & their passionate work ethic. Fortunately, Jame O’Neil isn’t hounded by the demons that John Noble could never shake off. That is a very good thing.
Meeting James O’Neil, in Lubec, right outside his studio cum gallery, was total serendipity. I had not gone looking for him. I didn’t even know he lived in Lubec.
“Quoddy Head State Park“, of late, has become one of my favorite places to loiter. When I am at the ‘Bold Coast‘ I make a point of visiting it at least once a day. Hence, why I have been there over 10-times in the last 6-months. Well, I was there just ahead of sunset last Wednesday, March 10, 2021. But, I had also been there at sunset the two previous evenings too. So, there was not that much new in terms of light & photographic options. So, I decided to try & catch some light from a higher elevation. Klondike Mountain, just a few minutes away came to mind. So, I drove up there. But, it was too snowy & icy. So, I decided to explore the area in my car. That is when I saw the sign for his gallery. I went up the road, looked around & came back. I stopped to take some pictures. A gentleman was standing outside cradling a dog. I asked if he was “James O’Neil“. He was. I was elated.
He invited me to come back for a tour at noon the next day. I was not going to let that opportunity pass. We met.
He is a delight. A very kind, gentle, generous man — very humble & self-effacing. He gave me the grand tour. Wow. What a place. What character. What art. What a view. He gave me permission to take pictures BUT I opted not to take any closeups. I didn’t want folks trying to ‘get’ prints off his work. Hence, the pictures you see here. He very kindly gave me an in depth tutorial on ‘egg tempura‘. Wow.
He is a musician too who plays multiple instruments & is a member of a Celtic performing trio called the “O’McCrelli“. They perform all over Maine, coming as far south as Portland. I found them on YouTube. James is on the left, on guitar.
Check Category ‘Art‘.
by Anura Guruge