Through an individual’s personal experiences, day-to-day interactions, and general outlook on life, a perspective is formed. More often than not, this is translated into the mundane. For example—80 percent of city landscape paintings are trite and uninspired.
Thankfully, there are artists like Adam O’Day, who transform familiarity by dissolving structure.
O’Day’s subject matter is gritty and destructive—he harnesses nuclear surroundings and apocalyptic themes with lush, inviting colors that create an inhabitable space. We recently chatted with O’Day, discussing his work leading up to a group show, Don’t Give Up The Ship, at Orchard Skate Shop.
What inspires this nihilism?
Where we live—just every day life living in an industrial park in South Boston. There’s always construction, but I’m painting it in an optimistic way, even though there’s rubble and shit everywhere.
You put candy-coated colors all over. Sometimes you’ve just got to paint horrible death and destruction in neon pink.
Your paintings have gone through an evolution—landscapes, their destruction, and now you’ve got rubble towns with titles like “You Can’t Escape.” It’s torn apart, but that rubble is transformed into bridges.
It’s just like any shantytown: You see a hillside, filled with garbage huts, but on a Friday night they all get together and party like a motherfucker [Laughs].
“Valley Of Skulls” is all about death, made during Passover and Easter.
When I was making that piece, [my girlfriend] Meghan said,
I’m illustrating all these dead babies. [Laughs] That’s an illustration for me.
Your degree is in illustration, but you’re quite painterly. In general, illustration departments seem focused on being very technical …
Very tight butthole. They were trying to push me away from that. They were like, ‘If you want to paint like this, you have to be in the fine arts program.’ [This] inspired me to just paint messier and messier. We loved to battle about that stuff.
What should the viewer get out of your work?
Tragedy? Clint Eastwood?
He paints the town red, smokes a blunt then bounces.
The end. Or, you know, figure out what the story means to them. It could mean something different to anyone. There’s an obvious theme, but does your mind take you to the apocalypse or to a magical wonderland?
It’s a test to see if the viewer is a pessimist or an optimist.
It is! This little kid came in, saw some missile paintings and was like, ‘Daddy, fireworks, yay!’ But the dad was like, ‘Why are you painting these? I’m a little offended.’ I was like, ‘Well, you guys just showed me exactly what was going on here. Your child, with no preconceived notion, saw this as a beautiful fireworks display. Where as you’re like, This is not cool, bro.’ So that’s a pretty good representation of the scale of what people can take away from it.
DON’T GIVE UP
ORCHARD SKATE SHOP
156 HARVARD AVE.