John A. O’Connor was born in Twin Falls, Idaho in 1940.
He studied art with Greg Kondos at Sacramento City College, with Fred Schmid at California State University, Sacramento, with John Golding at Mexico City College, D.F. (now University of the Americas), and with James Weeks at the San Francisco Art Institute. He received an AB with Honors (1961) and an MAA (1963) from the University of California, Davis where he took classes with Joseph Baird, Theophilus Brown, Roland Petersen, Wayne Thiebaud, and William T. Wiley.He subsequently taught art at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1963-64); Blake College, Valle de Bravo, Mexico (1964-65); Ohio University, Athens (1965-69; and at the University of Florida, Gainesville from 1969 until 2005, when he became Professor of Art, Emeritus. John has had 36 solo exhibitions of his paintings, including a number of retrospectives, and has participated in more than 200 group exhibitions. He has received numerous awards and honors including a National Endowment for the Arts/Southern Arts Federation Fellowship, and several State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowships. His work is included in a many public, university, college, corporate and private collections nationwide.
Many things influence an artist's work. Concepts are forged from many things: impressions, imagination, relationships, education, meditation, dreams, travel, language, other cultures, and . . . .
My art spans seven decades. From 1958-1968, it incorporated vivid color in a sensual, painterly, expressionistic style known as Bay Area figurative. In 1968 I began to explore new ways of working: I called it Conceptual Realism. My art from this time became the record of a journey to explore the mystery of illusion and reality and to provoke thought about how we create our truth by using humor, paradox, deception, and riddle.
By 1986, my paintings had evolved into the Blackboard Series. The blackboard images, obviously originated from my classroom experience where they had surrounded me for most of my life––first as a student, then as an artist-teacher. Erasing and moving borders became a history lesson: a history of the work itself. Wiping out and/or covering up images and messages went far beyond the processes themselves. The procedures raised significant questions: What is covered up? Why? What is missing?
From the mid-1970s, I had simultaneously researched Oriental folding screens. My “folding screens,” while ostensibly decorative, encompass a space for private reflection––there’s more to them than meets the eye. Like a Zen koan, the “screens” also pose riddles, incorporate anomalies, and include the perennial question: illusion or reality?
Now my work is an extension of all of these ideas in the form of digital slates. That “icon” of nineteenth century education has become a vehicle for my provocative new series, White Lies Matter (A Visual History of American Deceptionalism.)
For more than sixty years, my art has gone through numerous incarnations, and it inevitably asks the same questions. And, since the questions can't be answered, they continue to motivate me to continue to explore art processes forged from impressions, imagination, relationships . . . .