b.1992, United States
My Little Brothers Casket, 20
Oil on canvas
23 x 25 in.
Courtesy of Spinello Projects
Reginald O’Neal’s emotional oil paintings portray narrative scenes from his personal and collective experiences of growing up in the public housing projects of Overtown, a historically Black neighborhood in Miami.
Inspired by the world around him, O’Neal’s figurative still life canvas paintings are imbued with loving memories. He uses soft brushstrokes, deep shadows and a somber color palette to reflect on the complexities of the Black experience, communicating multiple layers of meaning while evoking a sense of beauty, loss and tenderness. Based on original autobiographical photos, these illustrated stories from everyday life in an urban Black neighborhood give viewers an intimate glimpse into a marginalized community.
The haunting painting, My Little Brothers Casket contends with questions about trauma, memory and loss. Of the work O’Neal notes: “Between Miami and Overtown, there were a lot of murders happening from a generation younger than me, so in my community, in project housing, I watched kids grow up and get into different things.”
“And I watched that. I watched kids go from being 12 to being 17, 18, 19. [This piece] was a message to them—not only kids who I watched grow up, but kids who are around my community. ‘Little brothers’ is plural. It’s not my particular brother, but it’s the younger generation. The fact that the casket is open is symbolic for them rushing to the grave.” (Artsy Vanguard, 2021)