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Light, and light’s ability to transcend the physical world is my particular passion when painting. Still life subjects enable me to focus on pure light and color relationships. Glass and white objects are my favorites, they allow me to bring to the painting what I want or need to find for color on a given day. My paintings have developed over decades, combining careful observation with powerful expression.
“You look, but you don’t see” is a phrase that my teacher Henry Hensche often repeated in class. What is actually there, in front of us, is always more exciting and unexpected that what we think should be there. I’ve spent decades learning to see, and communicate my observations through painting.
Karen O’Neil feels fortunate to have grown up in an artistic family. She learned a lot about painting light—her favorite subject—from her brother James, whom she tagged along after as a child. Besides studying at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and earning her bachelor of fine arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art & Design, O’Neil also studied under the late colorist Henry Hensche during the last summer he taught at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Hensche opened her eyes to the atmospheric effects of light on color. O’Neil has shown her work at numerous invitational and solo exhibitions. She and her husband, painter Peter Clapper, share studio space at home and teach part time on alternating schedules. O’Neil is a painting instructor at the Art Students League of New York Vytlacil Campus and Woodstock School of Art.