Helen O’Toole, Mary Larkin's Bottom, 2013, 100 x 156 inches, Oil on canvas (diptych)
Helen O’Toole, Mary Larkin’s Bottom, 2013, 100 x 156 inches, Oil on canvas (diptych)

CNAA Artist Feature: Helen O’Toole

O’Toole moved from her home in Ireland all the way to Chicago in 1987 to pursue her passion in painting and receive her MFA at the School of Art Institute. She was awarded a scholarship to study at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1989, then attained a fellowship to do a residency at the Fine Arts Work Center Provincetown. In O’Toole’s work, she creates a prolonged moment where the painting’s vast space evokes an image with a resonating emotional depth.

Metaphorically employing the moody landscape of rural Ireland, she channels a deep-seated pain and misery resulting from a past lived amidst a compilation of grudges, suspicion, and violence. She incorporates a slowness to her pieces that is crucial in accomplishing a threshold where the space of the painting starts to produce an image with depth and vibration. O’Toole utilizes her paintings as a vehicle to articulate the memories of growing up in an unforgiving limestone landscape, and the layers of longing and bittersweet histories.

Join O’Toole and fellow CNAA artist Akio Takamori on April 2 from 2:00-3:00 for a lively conversation with Bonnie Laing-Malcomson, Curator of Northwest Art and exhibition organizer.