Staff Spotlight: Isa O’Neill

Isa O’Neill came to Gateway Arts in the summer of 2021, after completing her BFA in painting at MassArt. She started out as a “float” facilitator, filling in, as needed, across all seven Gateway Arts studios, before taking over what was known as the Folk Art studio last summer.

Isa’s artistic practice is based in painting, though her work is also heavily informed by printmaking processes and typically includes a variety of mixed media elements. Working primarily on wood panel, she starts with a base of acrylic paint, then adds layers of gouache, ink, graphite, charcoal, acrylic and collage. She alternates these additive practices with reductive processes, such as sanding and carving, to uncover earlier layers. Her work reflects the body in a dream state, stretching and expanding across multiple planes. She incorporates elements of the everyday and of memorabilia to create a sense of the uncanny.

Isa O’Neill. Untitled. 2021. Acrylic, crackle paste, graphite, colored pencil, and engraving on wood panel. 38 x 48 in.

Artists in Isa’s studio work across media, creating paintings, collages, assemblage sculptures, and more. Utilizing her own extensive knowledge of mixed media processes, she encourages artists to problem solve and find inventive solutions by experimenting with new mediums. She emphasizes that nothing is too precious and that taking risks is an important part of artistic development. As risk-taking is an inherent part of any mixed-media practice, Isa finds it to be a useful exercise for artists looking to push their own boundaries.

Upon arriving at Gateway Arts, Isa immediately found it refreshing to be around artists who were not constrained by the external, competitive pressures often associated with the commercial art world. She appreciates how much the artists trust their own instincts and says that being here has truly changed her life. She finds that her own work has been informed by the work she sees happening at Gateway Arts every day. She’s learning to better trust her instincts and to not be afraid of interpreting an image to be loyal to her own perspective, rather than conventional bounds of realism.

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