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A talented husband and wife art duo take center stage at Ft. Madison Area Arts Association for the month of August.  A reception for the couple transpires on August 8th from 5:00-7:00pm.  E.I. Dupont and Axalta Coating Systems are sponsoring the exhibition.  The Lunch-Ala-Art program will take place for this show on August 29th at noon.

Tim & Lydia O’Neal met in the art department of Quincy University over 40 years ago.  Both went on to become elementary art teachers: Tim worked in Clark County, MO for over 30 years; and Lydia was employed by the Keokuk Community schools for 33 years.  They reside in Hamilton, Illinois, and are the happy parents of Paul, Erin (Colin), and Jon (Katie) and proud grandparents of Oliver and Jack.

Over the years, Tim worked with prismacolor (high quality colored pencils)as it was easy to pick up and put away quickly—with three little kids in the house that quality was a vital asset.  His pencil paintings were large, filled with light and very labor intensive.  When he retired, Lydia gave him a starter collection of oil colors that he had talked about over his entire teaching career.  Faced with a “new” medium after 30 years of working with pencils, Tim will tell you he felt he was back in kinder garten.  He changed his scale and began to experiment—he had to relearn how the various colors behaved, mixed and layered over each other.  Cars, cannas and cycles  (favorite subject matter) were left behind as he turned to smaller objects both natural and man-made.  He looks for surfaces, textures, colors and reflective qualities as he selects items for his still life compositions.  He roams country roads with his camera to catch the seasonal changes in the landscapes.  He looks for uniqueness in things and places that most people overlook.  He wants his work to slow down hurried eyes and invite the viewer to really see how much beauty there is around us every day.

Lydia says she talked about art for 30 years but couldn’t practice because she was surrounded by little kids, both at school and at home, who needed her attention.  When her third grade class asked her why she wanted to retire, (“Don’t you like us?”), she was stopped cold, only to be saved by one child who answered on her behalf: “Well, it’s like working in an ice cream shop.  You give it away all day and never have a chance to eat any on your own.  Now, when she retires, she gets to eat her own ice cream cone.”  (That was one reason why she loved teaching.)

When she started to do her own work, Lydia said she was pretty rusty and so decided to do some value studies.  She chose to practice on the human face which she sees as being both universal and totally unique at the same time; it was a challenge to catch the likeness.  The first attempts were pretty bleak, but after a shaky start, she realized that finely layered lines created a depth of texture that fascinated and delighted her.  She hasn’t stepped past those value studies as of yet.

Because the drawings take a lot of concentration and huge blocks of time, Lydia changes things up by working with fused glass.  At first she did jewelry, but her work has evolved into “wall jewelry” with mirrored mosaics done from original designs.  Lydia calls her drawings prose and her glass poetry.  She enjoys both for very different reasons and feels that each keeps the other fresh.  This exhibition will be available for viewing all month of August Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00-5:00.