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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Berkshire Profile: Danny O

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, August 20, 2006

Artist Danny O [Photo by Jennifer Mardus]
Welcome to Berkshire Profile, an iberkshires weekly feature appearing on Sunday. Each week, iberkshires will highlight a Berkshires resident or entity making a contribution to the Berkshires way of life.

North Adams - He wasn't always known as "Danny O," but city resident Daniel O'Connor has said that he knew from about the age of seven that art would rule his life.

Living The Dream

And 36 years later, the Lexington, Mass. native is living the dreams of his youth. During an Aug. 16 interview, the artist known for clever, colorful collage and a unique, fun, tape-and-ink technique, sat inside a downtown studio and designed a holiday card that featured both his unique art style and the historic Mohawk Theater movie marquee.


O's Mohawk Theater marquee holiday card design
His focus on the project appeared intense; neither the interview, a ringing telephone, nor the sounds of a CD [The Books "Lost and Safe,"] interfered with his ability to create.

O came to the area after meeting Northern Berkshires businessman Osmin Alvarez. Alvarez was, and is, a passionate advocate of O's work, and he and O have entered a licensing endeavor that promotes O's art via posters, lithographs, prints, scrapbook items, holiday cards, and more.

The business arrangement is working, O said.

"What we started is deeply rooted in what my life path is all about," he said.

First Steps Along A Life Path

Danny O's life path began as the the third child and first son of Tom and Mary Devoe O'Connor. His talents may be a combination of "born with it" and "grew up with it;" his family tree includes a talented amateur photographer and a commercial illustrator, and his parents were creatively inclined, O said.

"My mother made our clothes and she made Christmas ornaments," O said. "She always made home-cooked meals. My father was a tireless worker. He would go to dumps and bring things home and refinish them. My mom was always creating from nothing and my father was always recreating."

The concept of creating something with one's hands, eyes, and imagination gripped O before he reached eight years old.

"From second grade on, I knew art was my only thing."

One of seven children, youngster Daniel O'Connor attended the Fiske Elementary School and then the Diamond Junior High School. He graduated from Lexington High School as a member of the Class of 1981.

His high school years were likely not the proverbial "best years" of his life.

"That's How I Wrote My Future"

O's older sister Margie was diagnosed with cancer at age 17 and she died before her 20th birthday. O's "education" was rooted in life's uncertainties and his refuge was the high school art room.

"My parents attention was, understandably, devoted to my sister for about 18 months," he said."The rest of the kids kind of went their own way...we became kind of restless. When my sister was sick, I went to school every single day but I rarely went to a classroom. I went to the art room."

An understanding collection of teachers and school administrators allowed O'Connor to hold his place -and his peace- amid the jars of paint, the collections of brushes and the atmosphere of creativity.

"That was sort of my escape, and that's how I wrote my future, right there."

His name was among those frequently announced throughout high school graduation events.

"I got all the art awards," he said. "I just didn't get into college, which was no surprise because I hadn't put any attention to that."

Creative Flow

He did, however, get into the U.S. Navy and worked as a Navy photographer and artist. And subsequently, O became an art student at Boston University and Cooper Union.

His creative juices have flowed along many artistic rivers; original t-shirts became sought-after items in Virginia during the 1980s, and he worked for a time as a Boston-based fine artist and illustrator. O is a bona fide record-holder; his collection of 22,000 found balls is included in the Guinness Book of World records and was a Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit.

But O's creativity washes over him and his work in waves when the medium is collage or the ink-and-tape process. The former has generated work for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, the Chesterwood Museum, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Atlantic Records, and a growing number of private collectors. The latter has secured attention for O as well. In 2005, the 3M Company signed O as a spokesperson for the company's Scotch tape product during the 75th anniversary celebration of the tape. The city also chose O to design the program cover for the Fall Foliage Parade's 2005 "Golden Jubilee." A fall 2006 issue of Paper Creations magazine includes an article about O, and his Internet web site promotes a host of O-created art work.

"I've Never Felt Unwelcome"

It's the kind of success that sometimes leads people to bigger cities and broader venues, but O has planted new roots at a Massachusetts Avenue home that boasts two tree-house studios and spectacular views.

O remains dedicated to his business partner and friend Alvarez.

"He's made a huge commitment in believing in me."

And O has made a huge commitment to the Northern Berkshires.

"I love my home and the area is gorgeous," he said. "When I realized that this [the city] was my home, that's when I invested [in a house]. And the longer I stay, the more I appreciate it. I think the only thing that I see different [from what exists] is to have a dairy-barn size studio on my property.I've been here for five years, and I've never felt unwelcome. I like the pace here."

Coming Home

As the interview progressed, O worked on the holiday card design and as the talk wound down, the card was finished. Colorful and unique, much like the city and O himself, the card captured the personality of the marquee and a downtown holiday spirit.

"My work really excels here," he said. "I don't have the distractions."

O's family members travel to the city for visits, and O makes the trip to the eastern part of the state for visits and professional matters.

Coming home is an anticipated part of most trips.

"When I come from Boston to here on Route 2, I'm always glad to be headed west," O said. "it's so peaceful. I really like when I hit the Hairpin Turn, where you look over into the valley and into the city where you live. It's pretty, it's idyllic, you know?"

Additional information about Danny O may be acquired at a www.DannyOArt.com Internet web site or at 106 Main St., North Adams.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or 802-823-9367.
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