John O'Reilly: The Orpheus Suite



Boston area artist John O’Reilly has been creating “photo-montages” using re-photographed images from art history and gay pornography, and photographs of himself and studio dioramas, for the past 40 years. His most recent work is an exploration of the artist’s power to affect his environment as well as a meditation on his own mortality.


Orpheus was a Greek demi-god who played the lyre so sweetly as to tame wild animals and make the trees dance with his music. The fragmented nature of the montages, made up of cut and torn Polaroid photographs, echoes the death of Orpheus, who was torn apart after angering Dionysus. His music, however, was said to sing on as the sound of the forest, rivers, wind, and the voice of the arts.


The work in this series has a panoramic quality, causing the eye to roam across its surface as though one were meandering through the woods. Shifting areas of dark and light, complex and simple, and abstract and real follow one another in a rhythm suggesting a musical composition.


A retrospective catalogue of O’Reilly’s work, “Assemblies of Magic,” was recently published by The Addison Gallery of American Art and Twin Palms.