Let's Talk Art: Paton Miller's Visit With Brian O'Leary - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1796829

Let’s Talk Art: Paton Miller’s Visit With Brian O’Leary

icon 1 Photo
Artist Brian O'Leary.

Artist Brian O'Leary.

Paton Miller on Jul 12, 2021

Recently, I visited the Bridgehampton home and studio of Brian O’Leary, whom I’ve known for 30 years. Brian’s worn a lot of hats, but he’s been an artist through it all. O’Leary’s work is currently on view in “Brian O’Leary: In Perspective,” a show running through July 25 at MM Fine Art, 4 North Main Street, Southampton.

Miller: What I’m interested in Brian are your early days. Before someone is an artist you have to be impressed by art. It has to impact you, bowl you over. Do you remember the first time you were knocked back on your heels?

O’Leary: Yes, very clearly. After graduating from Duke University, I enrolled at the School of Visual Arts [SVA]. I thought I might become an illustrator. One of my teachers at SVA took me down to Captiva Island, Florida, to spend a week with Robert Rauschenberg.

Bob liked to work at night and so did I, so we worked and drank through the night. It was quite an experience to see this great artist at work. After that week with Bob in Captiva I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Miller: I know that you have a brother who works in finance and another who is a well-regarded ENT physician. I’m curious — how did your parents take to your chosen career path?

O’Leary: They didn’t mind. They had two other sons to go around so they didn’t pressure me.

It’s worth noting that I grew up in two communities that were completely devoid of arts. First as a kid in Scarsdale and the other at Duke University. Both places, the very idea of being an artist was never mentioned. It was treated as a possible hobby, which is so demeaning to art that it’s almost worse than nothing.

Miller: In the early ’80s you met Rauschenberg, which clearly was very important for you. Tell me about meeting Roy Lichtenstein whom I know you worked with.

O’Leary: I was the maître d’ at 1 Fifth Avenue. Roy used to come in often. We became friendly and he needed his studio painted, which I did which led to other jobs. One day in Southampton Roy and his wife Dorothy, and I were having lunch and Roy said he missed teaching. The next day I sent Roy a note asking him if he’d teach me. He wrote back and said he would!

I had a studio in New York City and Roy came to visit. He didn’t look at my work much, but he sat me down and told me his single lesson about art.

He explained that there is a plane of art that is not the plane of the canvas. You have to make sure that everything within that composition is exactly right. You have to train your eyes to see where the problems are. Roy had his ways of fine tuning his work.

About a year later, Roy paid me a second studio visit and this time he took in the work. When he returned home Roy told a mutual friend, a former teacher of mine from SVA, that I was one of the few students he’d ever had that really understood that one lesson he gave me.

I can’t tell you how important that was to me as a young artist. You see, I was banging my head against the wall but that message made me feel like, OK, things are OK, I’ll just keep going now. I’m not going to get discouraged, I’ll keep on keeping on.

Miller: Roy was a very generous guy.

O’Leary: He sure was. I owe him a lot.

Miller: I’m looking at these two painting hanging in your living room. I’ve known you and your work for many years and I think these are world-class paintings. Your use of color against what looks like sandstone and your own hieroglyphs is exceptional.

O’Leary: Regarding the color, well, it’s been a long road. Around 1999 I began stripping everything I could from the paintings and still have a painting. This included color, and my work became very monochromatic.

I thought it was short-term experiment, but it turned into 15 years of working without color or figuration. My paintings were going through a beginning, then at some point I would “destroy” them and then bring them back.

This began over 20 years ago after a series of works prompted me to cover them all with black paint. I just blotted them out. It felt right, and soon I was back at them and somehow a leap had been made. All of the works currently at [MM Fine Art] have gone through this catharsis.

Miller: And they’ve come back with a vengeance. Your unique personal language and use of color in these recent works are a great accomplishment.

You May Also Like:

Dawn Porter Receives Doc Fest Pennebaker Career Achievement Award

Inspired by a deep curiosity and empathy for the human experience, director Dawn Porter specializes ... 22 Nov 2021 by Carey London

Michael Disher Believes In Miracles

When it comes to East End theatrical longevity, Michael Disher has been directing productions out ... 19 Nov 2021 by Annette Hinkle

Acting Auditions At LTV

LTV Studios is issuing a casting call for actors ages 16+ for the premiere of a new play by a well-known author to be presented in May 2022 at LTV. This is a monologue style play about suicide and mental health. Directed by Valerie diLorenzo and produced with LTV, this will be a true community event and in benefit for East End Mental Health networks. Audition dates are Sunday, December 5, and Monday, December 6, at LTV Studios, 75 Industrial Road, Wainscott. Hours are 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m. Casting calls for five actors, age 16+. ... by Staff Writer

2021 Hamptons Doc Fest Schedule

Hamptons Doc Fest 2021 Schedule: Sag Harbor Cinema Friday, December 3 7 p.m. Opening Night Film, “Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind” (94 min.) directed by Stig Bjorkman. Post-film, Q&A with Bjorkman hosted by Miriam Parker, Associate Publisher of ECCO, an imprint of Harper Collins. Saturday, December 4 Noon. “The Automat” (79 min.) directed by Lisa Hurwitz. Post-film, Q&A with Hurwitz led by Roger Sherman. 2:30 p.m. “Movie Man” (82 min.) directed by Stina Gardell. Roger Sherman will lead the Q&A afterwards with Gardell and the film’s protagonist, Stig Bjorkman. 5 p.m. “Citizen Ashe” (94 min.) ... by Staff Writer

Bedside Reading For Thanksgiving

Bedside Reading is bringing a cornucopia of books to the Hamptons this Thanksgiving weekend, providing ... by Staff Writer

Illuminating The Creative Process At The Church in Sag Harbor

The Church in Sag Harbor, East Hampton’s Guild Hall and Works & Process at the Guggenheim have announced the LaunchPAD “Process as Destination” pilot program, a collaboration to nurture region-wide support for creative process and encourage artists and audiences to embrace the artistic process as destination. This winter, two projects set to premiere at Works & Process at the Guggenheim in 2022 will receive fully funded residencies at The Church in Sag Harbor, including artist fees, devoted rehearsal space, living accommodations, transportation and healthcare insurance coverage. The Church will host the artists for these two residencies and provide space in ... by Staff Writer

From The LTV Archives

The East Hampton Library will present “The LTV Archives: A Treasure Trove of Local History,” a lecture program on Wednesday, December 1, from 6 to 7 p.m. The program will be presented by Genie Henderson, LTV’s longtime archivist; and the author of “A Day Like Any Other: The Great Hamptons Hurricane of 1938,” in conversation with Brooke Kroeger, professor emerita of journalism at New York University, and an East Hampton Library Board member. The free program will be presented in person at the library and simultaneously live streamed via Zoom. The one-hour event will include a question-and-answer period, with questions ... by Staff Writer

Music At The Masonic Temple With Chase Allardice

Returning to the Masonic Temple in Sag Harbor on Saturday, November 27, to perform his ... by Staff Writer

A Virtual Visit With Susan Schrott

The Montauk Library’s “Virtual Visits” series with artists and musicians in their studios continues with ... by Staff Writer

Get Cooking: ‘Two Jews Making Food’ Debuts On LTV

It’s not exactly who you’d expect to find on the set of a buttoned up ... by Annette Hinkle
logo

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported
Send this to a friend