Alex O'Neal

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Delta Jail Shrine #2, 2012

Acrylic on canvas, 74" x 132"

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Since the spring of 2012 I have been isolating a formal aspect of my previous work that I call the shrine aesthetic. With less emphasis on my flamboyant, rebellious characters, Delta Citizens, I am more interested in personal monuments, shrines, that refer to places (some fictional), phrases, and objects that have inspired and idiosyncratically informed me. Wreaths, words made of flowers, shields, badges, sashes, pine cones, ears of corn, peppermint donuts, vintage phones, and neck ties, among other things, are in tall, cluttered arrangements and often behind bars that protect and/or jail them. Commemorations of “Flea Market Superstar”, “Sellout”, “Marion Jail Fan Club”, and “Yonkers Nursing Home” are, as banners state, “At Rest”, “Beloved”, and “In Loving Memory”.Almost buried in these decorative showcases are the totemic, bling-draped Ice Cream Royalty. Personnages of sorts, they are crown-wearing, multi-scoop stacked cones, inhabited by sleepy shrine groupies that hold to disconnected phone receivers and lick at melting, sugary surfaces. Ice Cream Royalty are 1) metaphors for dazzling, grand artist awards- made of ice cream, they are straw houses and hauntingly sweet- and 2) playful manifestations of euphoric migraines, one of my recurring themes. The appearance and quirky sentiment of these works are influenced by early American mourning art, which developed in response to the death of George Washington. Mourning themes were more personalized in the watercolors and needleworks of mainly 19th Century school girls and became an important genre in American folk art.

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