Becoming John O’Reilly

John O’Reilly (US American, 1930 – 2021), Self Portrait with Polar Bear, 1977, photograph and paper montage, 10 ½” x 7 5/8”, Gift of James Tellin, Howard Yezerski, and Katherine Yezerski. 2021.134.

John O’Reilly was a Worcester-based artist and beloved friend of the Fitchburg Art Museum until his death in 2021. FAM is the grateful recipient of a large posthumous gift of O’Reilly’s artwork, courtesy of his partner Jim Tellin and Howard Yezerski Gallery. 

This collection encompasses work from the 1970s to O’Reilly’s death, celebrating his extensive career and inexhaustible creativity. Known primarily for his black-and-white photographic montages, O’Reilly experimented with collaging together various materials, including pornographic magazines, art books, children’s coloring books, and found photo albums. His small-scale black-and-white tableaux dealt with homoeroticism, an individual’s place in humanity, wrestling with war and violence, childhood trauma, and a critique of our histories. 

O’Reilly’s collages and montages present a collapsing of time and space that defies easy logic. Upon closer inspection, you may recognize the idyllic landscape from a painting by Corot, or realize that a single figure is actually made up of several various parts. O’Reilly’s contribution to the history of art is positioned within the affirmation of LGBTQ+ identities and the urgency of the individual viewpoint.

 John O’Reilly (US American, 1930 – 2021), Sailor Suit, 2014, Crayon paper montage, 17 x 14 in, Gift of James Tellin, Howard Yezerski, and Katherine Yezerski. 2021.133.


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185 Elm Street, Fitchburg, MA 01420
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