Bart O’Rielly Asks the Essential Questions Through Art

Art and the City

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Our perceptions of reality are ever shifting. So, what can we know? What can we understand? Anything? Bart O’Rielly wants to know, and he wants to know how color, light and shadow affect our understanding of form, space and material.

Bart, as an artist and poet, asks the essential questions: How do we occupy space? How accurate are our perceptions compared with the true nature of reality? He has never been a traditional landscape painter; his work is about Nature in its idea form: the formation of thought.  

Father’s Own (Moon and Stone), Acrylic on Raw Canvas, 7”x6.5”, 2021, Photo: Bart O’Reilly.

To see that in his paintings, look at “We Go Further Back Than We Care to Remember.” It is this. It is that. The ideas move. You look deeper and the main conception grows, but then dissipates–displaced by another understanding that is soon joined by visions–your visions and ever-evolving memories. 

Bart is from Ireland. He received his BFA from the Natural College of Art and Design in Dublin and an MFA from Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore where he teaches. He also teaches design and color theory at Harford Community College. 

He uses a variety of materials, mostly oil and acrylic, and lets the medium, water or turpentine, “do its own thing.”  He says, “I’m still in control, but it can surprise me.”  When he discovers something significant, it doesn’t need an explanation. It just is.  It burrows into your curiosity and invites interpretations.

He gives his paintings titles, but Bart doesn’t paint his poetry. The poems glide through his work in a visual language, and his poetry flows with a personal narrative that traces back through the ages in the lyrical idioms of Ireland – joined by the dreams and accents of America.

Tigh an Chnoic, Acrylic on Raw Canvas, 30”x 24”, 2016, Photo: Bart O’Reilly.

You can see his paintings this month at the Hill Center (see, at the galleries) www.hillcenterdc.org      

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art   

Bart O’Reilly (See, Artist Profile) wants to know how we occupy space? How accurate are our perceptions? Do we experience true reality? Does it matter? With everything shifting and jumping around, can we ever catch up to what is real? Or is perception just a collection of random impressions–a microscopic fragment of all the ideas in the universe?

There was beauty in the beginning but we didn’t recognize it. But then we did and there was an explosion of looking and understanding. We made art. It was more than a delightful display…not just spectacle. It was a great idea; the best idea humankind has ever had. It connects to the spirits of the universe–the birth of creativity–the formation of thought never imagined. And imagination itself.

It may seem now that most of our worthwhile human ideas are slipping up through the atmosphere–leaking into space. So while the more ascending purposes and beliefs are passing through the exosphere into the void, the most leaden ambitions and moribund virtues devour the consciousness of the people of the earth: we grab for more; grab for everything.

But we can generate a counter force–a return to the origins of human recognition of value that link through art, beauty and the spirit of hope in a collective prayer. 

We can make art, look at art, hold dear those links to spiritualism. Revel in the gift of creativity for the purpose of adding elevated ideas to our primitive minds–to the space we occupy.

At the Galleries

2022 Regional Juried Exhibit – Hill Center Galleries
921 Penn Ave. SE

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This is really a terrific show. Artists from the DC, Maryland and Virginia metropolitan area submitted original work and 118 pieces were selected–including Bart O’Reilly (See: Artist Profile.) Prize winners have been selected by the juror, Arts Consultant Claude Elliot. Enjoy the exhibit in person as well as virtual. hillcenterdc.org/galleries.

Art for Humanity – American Painting Fine Art
5125 MacArthur Blvd. Through May 

The war in Ukraine has had an immediate impact on gallery owner and artist Andrei Kushnir, who is of Ukrainian descent. This show is a fundraiser.  50% of the proceeds of all artwork sales will be donated to the Ukrainian Red Cross.  Gallery artists whose works are featured in the special exhibition are Alexangel Estevez, Michael Francis, Andrei Kushnir, the late Ross Merrill, Carol Spils and Michele Martin Taylor.  The paintings will include new work as well as favorites from the gallery’s unique collection.  

The entire exhibition is also displayed on the gallery website, http://americanpainting.com

Studio Gallery
2108 R St NW, To Sat., April 23

Studio Gallery opens a new show with four artists: Cheryl Ann Bearss, in “Shape of Time,” explores the nature of trees, watching passing generations of humanity. 

Elizabeth Harris: The Trees and The Forest- Portraits of Trees: Her series is about connections between roots and sky, detail and big-picture, inner and outer, dormancy and renewal. 

Miriam Keeler: “Conceptual Animal Show.“ Miriam believes animal expressions and symbols are embedded our efforts to interpret our own behaviors and experiences.  

Lisa Battle: “Signs of Spring.” This is a celebration of hope, even in times of uncertainty and chaos. 

Amy Davis: “Starting.” Amy is restarting to create her signature encaustic portraits. She uses textures for a sense of liveliness and personality. www.studiogallerydc.com

The Art League Gallery – Studio 21
105 North Union Street
(in the Torpedo Factory Art Center)
Alexandria, VA 22314
Through April

The Art League presents Screen Dream, a themed exhibit featuring artworks inspired by stories, images, writers, actors, directors, and musical themes from film and television. In keeping with the spirit of the exhibit, actor Xander Berkeley will serve as juror. In addition to his roles in movies and on TV,  Berkeley is also a prolific artist working in oil and sculpture. www.theartleague.org

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim can be reached at Artandthecity05@aol.com