Winter isn’t a season known for its color. Dark nights get longer and gray skies bring chilly winds. But in one corner space of The Wharf, with a colorful Statue of Liberty figurine greeting guests at the door, artist Maggie O’Neill is brightening up the neighborhood with her pop impressionistic paintings.
O’Neill’s new gallery and studio opened at The Wharf in September as a pop-up location, which will remain open for at least six months. “To have an art gallery, a place where people can convene around art, it’s something that a lot of people want,” O’Neill says, who is also the co-founder and creative director of SWATCHROOM, a creative design firm specializing in hospitality design. You’ve seen her interiors in NoVA restaurants like Wilson Hardware, Hank’s Oyster Bar and Copperwood Tavern. “People have been really welcoming and responsive and we’ve gotten some good foot traffic.”
It’s hard to not smile when you walk into the gallery. The walls leave plenty of room for O’Neill’s colorful art to take full display, including images of ice cream cones painted on bingo cards, hands making peace signs, portraits of historical figures, cherry blossoms and federal monuments. The openness of the gallery allows O’Neill to use the space as a studio, as well. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch her splattering paint on a canvas in the corner, focusing on where to place each vivid stroke. “I am, and always have been, attracted to and completely moved and inspired by color,” she says. “It’s a huge part of not just what drives me and what I like to look at, but I like the way it can motivate and inspire other people too.”
Known for her pop art portraits of political figures—she even got to present her Barack Obama painting to the former president—and colorful DC landscapes, O’Neill has made a name for herself as an irreverent artist in a serious town.
The gallery also offers fans paper and canvas prints of her artwork, and custom merchandise like leggings, tank tops, baby onesies and towels. Plus, the gallery will serve as an event space for programs like bingo, receptions, painting classes and more. It’s all in service to adding a pop of color to people’s lives.
“My art inspiring others is very satisfying and reinforces what I believe to be philosophically true about people and color and how it’s metaphorical for a lot of things,” O’Neill says. “It doesn’t get old when someone stands in front of a piece and says, ‘I love how happy it makes me.’” // 998 Maine Ave. SW, Washington, DC