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Inside the Studio of....

Chaz O'Neil

Chaz O’Neil is the recipient of the OAL residency at Can Serrat in El Bruc, Spain, as well as, the GCAC  Dresden Exchange Residency in Germany.  He received his BFA from Otterbein University and his MFA from Bowling Green University.  Currently his time is divided between creating art, working as the Gallery Exhibition Assistant at Otterbein University, and teaching classes within the art department of the university.  In addition to this busy schedule he is the Director of the Fine Arts Exhibitions through the Ohio State Fair.

I met Chaz at his home studio, a spare room inside of his apartment with a tarp covering the floor.  Furry pets, two energetic dogs, greeted me at the door but quickly took to napping at our feet as we talked about his work.  A cat slinked in as we delved deeper into the imagery and inspiration behind the work on the walls. 


Chaz considers this work mixed media objects as they command more presence than a mere drawing or painting.  They are creations on two-inch thick panels, giving the work more dimension than most works on a flat surface.  Cartography maps are used as the base for some of his creations with drawings and collages layered on top.  Other found artifacts find their way into Chaz’s work like thin sheets of metal with geometric cut-outs, string, and various other found materials. Nothing is sacred, not even his previous art work, as he often cuts older pieces to be re-incorporated into a newer idea. Many of his creations include lunar inspired landscapes that continue on without a focal point; drawings and painting with unending expanses to get lost in much as he gets lost in meditation during his creative process.


The inspirations behind this imagery include Robert Fludd, Alchemy & Mysticism, and the writings of Carl Sagan, as well as, his TV series Cosmos. Chaz’s exploration and interest in the themes of science and mapping began in high school while taking three years of drafting.  He was enamored with the idea of taking apart objects and creating the mechanical diagrams which dove-tailed with mapping and cartography in his mind. The inclusion of landscapes in his art work, however, did not appear until his second year of graduate school. Landscapes and cartography maps have since become a staple within his visual repertoire. Within the scope of mapping, Chaz O’Neil views science as a way of mapping progression from past to present.  While mapping the progression of scientific exploration, Mr. O’Neil was led to Alchemists who paved the way for early scientists. The themes of science, alchemy and the overall examination of how things work cycles back to his time spent drawing and breaking down the mechanical components of objects in his drafting classes. Maps, lunar images, alchemy tools and symbols, as well as, contemporary scientific imagery is embedded within each piece.  This layering of context creates a longing within the viewer for the understanding of the mechanics of the universe.

The “Messenger Series” is the current body of work that lines Chaz’s studio walls.  Comprised of 12”x12”x2” drawings/collages/mixed media/objects, this series seeks to layer imagery that conveys the message of intelligent life on earth. The size limitation was set as a parameter for this series.  Chaz O’Neil will often set some form of limitation on his work as he leaves the door on his use of materials wide open.   The series is a visual representation much like the radio signals sent out by scientists into the universe as a means of communication to any intelligent life-forms that may exist.  Ultimately the artist hopes to fill an entire wall with these objects. 

While the “Messenger Series” is currently the biggest project on his plate, Chaz has ideas of other avenues to explore in future works.  Several skeletal, muscular, and vascular system maps of the human body are pinned to his wall as the latest exploration of the idea of mapping takes shape.  Just like many artists, he is fully engulfed in the chaos of creating, balancing work, and life, while his mind still ponders future artistic ideas to explore.



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