Exhibition Dates: September 1 - 16, 2017
Reception: Friday September 1, 7-10pm
JO HAY OPEN STUDIO GALLERY is pleased to present new paintings by O’Neil Scott. REASONABLE DOUBT addresses the social inequities that we as a nation are still trying to reconcile despite the advances we’ve made.
Self-taught and with just two years of experience painting under his belt, the Philadelphia-based artist’s large-scale portraits don’t only convey a technical aptitude that can be likened to the Old Masters, but, more importantly, they speak to the concerns that affect those from marginalized communities who remain in fear for the loss of their basic rights. “While my work addresses the choices that our current administration is taking, it’s more about social injustice in America as a whole,” says Scott.
As an African American, Scott has had to contend with various forms of discrimination throughout his life which he addresses in Praying This Works (2017). The portrait features a black man wearing Groucho Marx-esque glasses, a symbol Scott uses to underscore the changes that a person of color is often forced to make in an attempt to avoid discrimination. Thus, the prop reminds us just how much we still rely upon old and antiquated stereotypes to base our judgements about others. The same, of course, applies to individuals from other groups that fall outside the mainstream. God Is Gay (2017), for instance, speaks to the inequalities experienced by the LGBQT community while Courage Around Cancer (2017) speaks to those who’ve become burdened by the stigma that commonly comes with the diagnosis of the disease itself.
While the term reasonable doubt was established to protect the innocent, we have become a country that is too quick to judge. Every day, more than many make ill-informed assumptions that wrongfully condemn individuals who identify with various races, religions and cultural groups. By featuring these individuals, who remain subjected to unwarranted discrimination, Scott aims to inspire dialogue and impart change. “At the very least,” says Scott, “I want those who feel isolated to know that they are not alone.”
I am a self-taught, Philadelphia-based artist. Influenced early on by both my grandfather and uncle, each of whom pursued creative careers, I took to drawing as a child and spent much of my youth filling the pages of empty notebooks with images of individuals, both fictional and real. In college, I had hoped to study art. But I’d been awarded a football scholarship from Syracuse University and therefore had to prioritize my activities, which meant dropping my studio courses since they conflicted with the school’s training schedule. While I ended up majoring in Information Technology and then later earned my MBA at the University of Delaware, I never lost my passion for art. Rather, it remains a vehicle that I continue to utilize as a means to give voice to my innermost concerns.
Inspired by the Old Masters as well as contemporary realists, I always have been captivated by portraiture and its capacity to impart the complexities that comprise the human condition. It wasn’t until I stopped working with acrylic and started experimenting with oil two years ago that I started spending so much more time at the easel. Not only have I found the material’s pliability so much easier to navigate, but it’s ease of use has pushed me to delve that much deeper into my subject matter and risk voicing my trepidation about the many issues that I hold close to my heart, such as social justice, climate change, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. At their core, I want my paintings to invoke mindfulness, to inspire contemplation, and to convey understanding.
- O'Neil Scott August 2017