In a nutshell, Kat O’Neill is a pretty cool chick. She is as likely to be found taking photographs off the back of a Harley as on Main Beach in East Hampton and shares her studio with a rabbit called Little Van (Van is her son’s name.) She creates works of beauty and works of provocation across different media and isn’t afraid to stare mortality or difficult facets of life in the face. Yet she can also be stopped in her tracks by the simple daily act of a sun setting on the horizon. Along with her art, O’Neill hones her words for the stage and screen. So, how does she translate her voice across these different forms?
“A voice is the artists’ take on the world, where he or she wants the attention directed,” says O’Neill, “I feel like my direction comes through in all my artistic expressions. My dramatic writing for print and stage is comedic and sardonic but it all circles around the human condition and what I consider worthy of examination. The good, the bad and the ugly.”
The subjects which catch her eye also represent a diverse slate. She explains, “I like exploring the fringe of life and finding unexpected beauty — in a reflection of a beaten down, rusted out commercial fishing boat or a crane in the sunset or graffiti on a fire hydrant or pretty much anywhere or a 200-year-old-tombstone. You will never find me shooting beautiful nudes or saccharine moments. But I am still a sucker for the beauty in a wave or a flower — nature in all its forms. Except for a sunrise — early mornings and I will never be compadres. Once a night person, always a night person.”
Kat O’Neill’s journey has taken her from a successful job on Wall Street to a writing contest that landed her at advertising giant Chiat Day. Next came a focus on writing plays and screenplays, being an artist in residence in theaters in Manhattan then having her screenplays optioned for Hollywood. She got back to directing a few years ago at Guild Hall for a night of short plays she wrote titled Life is Shorts. “I would like to do more plays out here,” O’Neill admits, “I think there is a real need for original works.” Now O’Neill lives in East Hampton with her husband, Marc Heskell, a real estate broker at Saunders, her rescued pup Shadow and the aforementioned Van’s.
Along with showing her own work O’Neill is committed to showing other artists as well at The White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton. About two years ago she came in as a co-owner/co-director with Andrea McCafferty with whom she shares a similar aesthetic, passion and compassion. “Our artists come from a variety of sources – from research that Andrea and I do, from juried on-line shows we create, and from patrons and other artists recommending the gallery because they see the shows we curate and the themes and work we promote,” explains O’Neill, “Our media reach and reputation also bring in artists from around the world. As a gallery we do not want to be just brick and mortar. We want to be a creative force, constantly trying new concepts and ventures. We are involved with various local charities and, recently, started working with The Talkhouse as part of our Culture Club that we started last summer. So far we have done performance art, a one-man show and comedy.”
In spiritual circles water represents emotion and for O’Neill it is a necessary element of her eclectic inspiration. She says, “I try to get to water every day. Ocean. Bay. Hot Tub. Could even be a large puddle. It gets the creative juices flowing. And then there is the city. Twenty-four hours in Manhattan with a camera and I return with 500 shots of inspiration. My third option is a dark bar, corner seat, notebook. Characters are in the cocktails.” So to this passionate artist we say, “Cheers to that!”