Joseph O'Sickey: Unifying Art, Life and Love

May 2 - July 21, 2013

Download the Exhibition Gallery Guide Here

With stunning color and awesome scope, the Canton Museum of Art is pleased to showcase the work of treasured Northeast Ohio artist, Joseph O’Sickey, as our Spring exhibition feature.

Through more than 160 works, the exhibition features expressive canvases and drawings covering seven decades of O’Sickey’s work, from the 1940s through today, and offering beauty for all ages and imaginations! Whether oil paintings, watercolors or sketches, the images invite the viewer on a journey — traveling through lush gardens, the colorful circus, amazing zoos, thundering horse tracks and beyond.

Now in his 94th year, Joseph O’Sickey is being honored with not only the Museum’s significant exhibition, but also as a recipient of a 2013 Governor’s Award for the Arts. This award is presented at the annual May meeting of the Ohio Arts Council in Columbus.

Additionally, the exhibition is accompanied by a 150-page, full-color book (a link to excerpts is below), as well as a new hour-long documentary airing on Western Reserve PBS in May and June — both of which are available in the Museum Store. And there is participation from other museums and galleries in the Northeast Ohio region, displaying a number of O’Sickey works.

“Joseph O’Sickey’s work is simply dynamic and pulls you right in to the subject matter and every detail,” said Canton Museum of Art Executive Director M.J. Albacete. “From his large canvases to his sketch books filled with his unique observations of life, we are allowed into his world. This is a dramatic display of O’Sickey’s work, and audiences from Northeast Ohio and beyond should be prepared to be awed.”

“We are certainly grateful to Joe for sharing his lifelong dedication to his art and the abundant gift of his creativity, which deserves our respect and admiration,” said Albacete.  “This is an exhibition to experience with the heart and soul.”

(above, left): Portrait of the artist in his studio in Kent, Ohio, 2013; (right) Blue Hill, 1989, oil on canvas,
60" x 72"

About Joseph O’Sickey
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1918, Joseph O’Sickey’s family moved to Cleveland when he was four months old and settled in the Polish neighborhood of Saint Stanislaus Parish. His grandparents were all born in Europe and were part of the great wave of immigration in the late 19th century. O’Sickey was cared for by his maternal grandmother since his mother was working outside the house. During this time he was encouraged to draw and became interested in birds, which eventually turned into a life-long interest in circus and
zoo animals.

O’Sickey attended East Tech High School in Cleveland from 1934 to 1937 while also attending Saturday morning classes at the Cleveland School of Art (now Cleveland Institute of Art). He also took advantage of free evening classes at the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Institute. Upon graduating from high school in January 1937, he continued his studies at the Cleveland School of Art. In March of 1941, he was drafted into the Army where he spent a little over two years of his nearly five years in service overseas in Africa, India and Burma. Since it was difficult to obtain painting materials, O’Sickey focused on drawing with whatever medium and paper was available. He still owns the drawings from this period, because he felt it was at that time that he really learned how to draw.

In early 1946, O’Sickey had an encounter that would be the single most important moment in his life – meeting Algesa D’Agostino at the 1030 Gallery in Cleveland. Due to various circumstances, the courtship would take until August 1947 before they were married. During that time, O’Sickey spent the summer of 1946 traveling through the American West with Cleveland artists John Paul Miller and Paul Travis. Upon his return, O’Sickey found employment at The Ohio State University. While at OSU, O’Sickey was influenced by his informal study with Hoyt Sherman and began a life-long friendship with fellow faculty member [and renowned artist] Roy Lichtenstein. Although he was offered continued employment after his year at OSU, O’Sickey returned to Cleveland and Algesa.

From the late 1940s into the early 1960s, he worked at a variety of jobs in Cleveland.  In 1956 he was hired to teach beginning design at the School of Architecture at Western Reserve University.  In 1962 he bought a house in Deer Isle, Maine, that would become his and Algesa’s summer home for 31 years. However, his life really changed in 1964 when he received an appointment as Assistant Professor of Art at Kent State University, where he continued teaching until his retirement in 1989.

Employment as a full-time faculty member finally gave O’Sickey time to engage in substantial work on his art.  After commuting from Cleveland Heights for four years, in order for his son to graduate high school, he and Algesa moved to Twin Lakes near Kent, Ohio.

In 1963, O’Sickey began his long time relationship with the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in New York City.  Upon their closing in 1978, he began a relationship with Kennedy Galleries in New York until 1994. Locally he has been represented by Vixseboxse Art Galleries and The Bonfoey Company. He has won numerous awards in painting at the annual May Show of the Cleveland Museum of Art and had more than 50 one-person shows throughout his life.  His works can be found in many private and public collections including Butler Institute of American Art, Bristol Myers, Canton Museum of Art, Cleveland Artists Foundation, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art (Georgia), Hohn, Loeser + Parks, IBM (New York), National City Bank, Michener Collection, Pepsi-Cola Collection (New York), and Westmoreland Museum of American Art, among many others.

Education Outreach “Sketching Program” a Major Component for O’Sickey Exhibition
In conjunction with O’Sickey’s sketching background and the new exhibition, the Canton Museum of Art is providing Stark County fourth and fifth grade classrooms with an opportunity to develop observational skills and learn from an experienced artist.  Initially piloted in March in the Canton City School District’s fourth-grade classrooms, artists from the Museum visited classes to prepare students for their upcoming tour of the exhibition.

During each 40-minute lesson, artists provided the students with information on O’Sickey and his artistic philosophies, including his practice of filling sketchbooks throughout his career and his interest in drawing from observation.  To introduce students to the concept of sketching from life, the visiting artists brought along models – Fire-bellied Toads.  Students observed the toads for various lengths of time and then created sketches of their own.

O'Sickey himself provided sketchbooks for all of the students participating in the lessons thus far.  Since launching the program, the Museum has been able to bring art education and instruction to nearly 700 students from 30 different classrooms.  As of today, more than 70 additional classes have been scheduled through the Museum's Visiting Artist Program.  (left: sketchbook of Joseph O'Sickey on display in the Museum)

Stark County educators interested in learning details about participating in the Museum’s Visiting Artists Program or scheduling a tour of “Joseph O'Sickey: Unifying Art, Life and Love,” should contact Erica Emerson at the Museum, (330) 453-7666.

Events Related to the Joseph O’Sickey Exhibition:

Opening Night Celebration — May 1, “An Evening in the Garden with Joseph O’Sickey”
The Canton Museum of Art will host an exhibition opening night celebration, “An Evening in the Garden with Joseph O’Sickey,” on Wednesday, May 1, 6:00 – 9:00pm, in the Great Court of the Cultural Center for the Arts.  Attendees will meet the renowned artist and get a “first-look” of the exhibition.  The evening will feature exhibit-themed heavy hors d’oeuvre stations, two complimentary drinks and cash bar, as well as live jazz music by The University of Akron Jazz Ensemble.  Tickets are limited and are $50.00 for Museum members, $60.00 for non-members.  For reservations, call Lynn Daverio at the Museum (330) 453-7666, ext. 104.

Exhibition Catalog Available — Joseph O’Sickey: A Life of Art
Accompanying this engaging exhibition will be a full color, 156-page catalog available in both hardcover and softcover.  Written and assembled by exhibition curator Christine Fowler Shearer and Steven Litt, art and architecture critic at The Plain Dealer, the book chronicles O’Sickey’s life and works in vibrant fashion.  Litt’s feature reviewing O’Sickey’s art takes the form of conversations at the artist’s home in Kent, Ohio, in which decades of artistic peer relationships and life influences are chronicled.  More than 100 of O’Sickey’s works are included in the book, which will be available at the Museum Shop during the exhibition.   

New PBS Documentary Takes Viewers Inside Joseph O’Sickey’s World
Western Reserve PBS (WNEO 45.1/WEAO 49.1) will premiere its new hour-long documentary, Joseph O’Sickey: The Art of Life, on Friday, May 3, at 9 p.m.  The documentary will repeat on Saturday, May 4, at 4:30 p.m., with additional airings throughout May and June.  The documentary showcases his remarkable life and career, following him in his Kent home and studio as he discusses the evolution of his painting style, his devotion to the practice of sketching and his more than 60-year love affair with his late wife, Algesa.  In the course of producing the documentary for Western Reserve Public Media and interviewing O’Sickey, freelance journalist Sarah Taylor discovered that, “Joe does not view art as work, although clearly he’s a very productive artist.  He views his art as a way to experience life.”
Inside the O'Sickey Exhibition: 
A Life of Art — Excerpts from the Exhibition Book by Christine Fowler Shearer and Stephen Litt
from the Premiere Issue of @CantonMuseum Magazine

Chronicling the career of any artist is a daunting task, but add to that seven decades of continuous artistic production and the task could be considered overwhelming.  One of Ohio’s premier artists, Joseph O’Sickey launched his career in Ohio, and he continues to work in Ohio. In conversations with the artist, he referred over and over again to a number of themes, tenets, and people.  Read more....


(above) Joseph O’Sickey painting in his garden in front of his painting
Parasol, Deer Isle, Maine, 1984, oil on canvas, 48" x 60"

Special Thanks to Exhibition Donors
This project is made possible by grants from:
• The U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services
• The Ohio Humanities Council
• The Stark Community Foundation

The CMA is grateful for the generous support from:
• Dorothy Lichtenstein
• Kent State University
• The Volunteer Angels
• Ronnie and Dinny Bell
• The Bonfoey Company
• Vincent and Olwen Dowling
• Mr. and Mrs. Scott Isquick
• Joe and Nancy Keithley
• Grant and Ellen Kloppman
• Ted and Sue Sande
• Clare Fitzpatrick and Robert Blatchford. 
• Special thanks to the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsInStark for continued exhibition and operating support of the Canton Museum of Art