Sarah O’Neil is a local contemporary artist who is attending UW Oshkosh as an undergrad earning her fine arts degree with a two-dimensional art emphasis. She is originally from Appleton but started her college career at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, CO. She transferred to UW Oshkosh in 2014 during her junior year of school. She is now in her final year of school and has succeeded in growing with her art as well as her artistic community within Oshkosh.
“Transferring schools was tough; I am not going to lie. But even more than that I think the hard part was moving from a larger city to a much smaller one. It was a little bit of a culture shock. Honestly though, it affected my artwork in a good way. I am way more focused now and I have made much more of a connection with the faculty here in Oshkosh. Since we live in a smaller community, we as artists really have the opportunity to create our own scene. I think that the artistic community at UW-Oshkosh is a tight knit group of people who are very passionate about what they do. We all motivate each other and keep each other on our toes.” And this is true. I myself am an artist and find that since recently living in Milwaukee and moving back to Oshkosh, Oshkosh has a lot to offer in being a small town allowing artists to be more like family. We look to each other for inspiration, critiques, and motivation and when we hit creative blocks we turn to each other for help and when we reach our goals we celebrate together.
Sarah’s growth since transferring as a non-traditional student to UW-Oshkosh has given her the opportunity to become president of the student run Gallery Board at UW Oshkosh. This is no easy task but is very rewarding not only to the school but to the community as well. Oshkosh residents are welcome to come visit any art show or artist speaker to any of the three galleries that the University houses on campus free of charge. For a calendar of events visit the Art Department’s website at http://www.uwosh.edu/art/galleries.
As for Sarah’s personal artwork, she has excelled tremendously since I saw her work in the beginning of 2014. While her paintings were intriguing they became lustfully engaging, see her painting here with the subtle organic and whimsical almost mishaps she encounters with her paintbrush against the sharp edged perfection of the triangles in the foreground, she plays on the contradiction quite well. She describes her work as “explorations of contradictions” and additionally her “creative process takes advantage of abstract space, blurring the boundaries of our technological reality.” For example her sculpture Hot Pink Line, she construes the traditional picture plane by first creating a sculpture on it, then breaks all the rules by drawing on the walls of the gallery much like street art and their philosophy. The cell phones are a collection of phones from anyone who would give them to her. And who could miss the hot pink line that penetrates through all of it that says “screw you rules and regulations”, take a good look at what technology has done to mankind. If we were to take those cell phones away and just think for a moment in silence in collaboration, what could happen?
I could tell you what Sarah would do, she would keep working….as she says “I am always working. I am always thinking about my next move. I get involved in everything that I can and I never say “no” to anything. Every experience is going to put you closer to your dream. I am constantly drawing from experiences and researching my subject. If I set my sights on something, then I do everything that I can to achieve my goals. Dreams are good, but without a person behind them that is willing to stop at nothing, they are just a dream. It is my job to make them a reality.”
Sarah was chosen as the Connecting Communities intern at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI. While there, she gained insight into one of the most successful arts centers in the United States. In fall 2014, she was hired on as the Archival Assistant to the O.V. Shaffer private collection that was gifted to the University. You will be able to see Sarah’s most recent work at Student Honors show at UW-Oshkosh. The opening reception is scheduled to be in the Allen Priebe Gallery on March 19, 2015. Look at the Art Departments website for details, again the website is http://www.uwosh.edu/art/galleries.