Profiled by writer Susan Orlean in this week’s New Yorker (ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS: WALMART), Brendan O’Connell is a quintessential American painter who explores the everyday through contemporary art. Brendan, who will be shooting a segment on the Colbert Report in March, has created a stir in the worlds of art, media and commerce with his Walmart Series, which Brendan discusses with Alec Baldwin on his website, Brendan O’Connell.
In his Walmart Series, Brendan, whose work has been compared to Edward Hopper, uses the controversial mega chain as his muse. His ambitious experimentation of merging popular culture with a twist of classical painting methods help to breathe life into areas that are overlooked in everyday occurrences. The Boston Globe compared his series to Warhol’s soup cans and Wayne Thiebaud’s gumball dispensers.
“There are few things more “American,” for good or for ill, than Walmart,” Brendan explains, so he decided he would create paintings based on photographs he took of everyday shoppers. In France, the Post impressionists painted the main shopping thoroughfares of Paris. O’Connell realized that America’s equivalent to Paris’ commercial boulevards were the superstore’s endless aisles. “I would argue that Walmart is the most visited interior architecture on the planet, and it is quite possibly the most democratic,” he explains.
The democratization of art is near and dear to Brendan’s heart in a number of ways. He has made it his mission to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to experience the act of creating through art. The Everyartist.me (http://www.everyartist.me) organization, which he helped found, aims to help children find their own creativity. Its focus is to help spark creativity in every child. . The Rubin Foundation of New York City gave O’Connell a grant to start a pilot program towards starting a “National Art Day.” The initial day was a success, where Everyartist.me worked alongside the Walmart Visitor’s Center and the Bentonville, Arkansas, school district. The day included a digital and real-world art event, where over 8,000 students gathered to create art on the football field of the local high-school. In 2013, the organization’s goal is to have it literally be a national art day, where thousands upon thousands of children will have the chance to participate. But Everyartist.me will be more than a one day event. The focus will be on having a continuous stream of creative events for kids, every year with more and more participants in more and more places. Although the initial emphasis will be in the U.S., the outreach will eventually be global. The objective is to maintain creative activity throughout a child’s life into adulthood. In the future, O’Connell wants to see “where the brush leads” him. In February 2013, the Everyartist.me project will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the aforementioned National Art Day.
“We want to raise as much money as possible,” Brendan explains, “It would be wonderful to make it the largest community art event in history.”
Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013