Vivid colors are the first thing that catch your eye. Inside the O’Donnell Art Gallery in New Seabury, paintings and prints of golden beach scenes, fields of bright orange poppies, and striking blue coastal panoramas adorn the walls of the gallery, creating a visual archive of summer life on Cape Cod. Rebecca O’Donnell and her husband, Gene, opened the gallery in an old candy shop in the Popponesset Marketplace. “I’m very lucky that this used to be a candy store. Everyone already came into the place,” O’Donnell says. “Now we just offer them a different type of candy.”
Growing up in a family of artists, O’Donnell began painting many years ago. She got her start painting note cards for the Popponesset Marketplace Country Store; when they started selling well and she realized their popularity, she decided to open the gallery in 2004. The gallery is known for the annually changing colors of its walls; this year’s shade, an intense cobalt blue, inspired a series of paintings as well. In one recent work, O’Donnell moved toward a more spare style by depicting a sky with a solid shade of blue—a great contrast to a richly detailed foreground. “This way the viewer can imagine that there is a bird in the sky, or a boat,” O’Donnell says. “People aren’t as involved with what is in the background, and they love it.”
Working primarily with a mix of watercolors, acrylics, pencils, and oil paints, O’Donnell draws her inspiration from her surroundings. “I love this place,” she says. “That’s really my motivation.” Her homegrown paintings document the changes on Cape Cod. For example, authorities recently prohibited boaters from anchoring off of Popponesset Spit, which opens up to Popponesset Bay. One of O’Donnell’s paintings depicts the catamaran-filled waters in a scene that captures memories for those who treasured this place in days gone by. “I love it when people look at my paintings and say things like, ‘Oh, that used to be my house!’ or, ‘I remember that!’” she says.
The gallery does not represent other artists, but O’Donnell does feature other items made by local artists and family members, including a stunning line of pearl and semi-precious jewelry hand-crafted by O’Donnell’s daughter in law. On occasion, the gallery hosts a book signing by a local author, or a show featuring local artists to promote the gallery and the works of others in the local arts scene. “It’s nice to be a part of the community I live in,” says O’Donnell. “I like to get the word out about art events, and promote local arts.” She paints with a group of artists every Monday morning, and this summer the group rented one of the Hyannis Harbor Artists Shanties for a week. The shanties project gives artists who don’t own shops a chance to get used to the feeling of showing up for work, and paint in the company of others. “We’re doing a lot as a group,” says O’Donnell. “We even had a show together this summer.”
O’ Donnell says opening the gallery has contributed to her growth, both as a person and as an artist. It’s been a lifestyle change, but one she doesn’t regret.
“Having the gallery has helped my artistic abilities snowball,” she says, then smiles. “Otherwise, I’d be holed up at my house with a lot of paintings and no one knowing who I am.”
The O’Donnell Art Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day; weekends only Labor Day through Columbus Day.For more information, log on to www.odonnellgallery.com, call (508) 477-8057, or visit the gallery at Popponesset Marketplace in New Seabury.