Mary Anne O’Malley G.O. ’72 never liked boarding school. She wanted desperately to study art. However, the school and her family wouldn’t let her. “My family thought art was silly,” she says. “Then I went to Glen Oak.”
There, O’Malley had the Art Barn, with sculpture and a dark room. She painted, made films, developed photos and worked with Mr. Turkaly after school.
“Glen Oak was an explosive, creative time, and I really blossomed,” O’Malley says. “I knew at that point I wanted to be an artist.”
O’Malley’s career has been steeped in art at every turn. As a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art and a young professional, she focused on contemporary painting, printmaking and sculpture.
In 1980, she moved to New York City, showing her sculptures at Leo Castelli Gallery and other well-known galleries. Sculpture, in turn, led to “a natural progression to architecture,” O’Malley says. So in 1981, she enrolled in Pratt Institute’s architecture program, continuing to sculpt and show in her free time.
Upon graduating from Pratt in 1984, she designed multi-use buildings and stayed with it until 1993, when a stress-related illness and tanking economy caused her to look elsewhere – and inward.
O’Malley yearned for a career centered on more spiritual values. “I’d always wanted to study iconography, so I thought, ‘Why not do that now?’” O’Malley says.
She studied with renowned Russian iconographers who helped her hone her skills. And she found that iconography – painting images of religious icons – was her calling. It’s been her passion for the past 25 years.
In painting images of the Virgin Mary and saints for churches, chapels and private clients nationwide, O’Malley uses an ancient style of painting called egg tempera, a combination of egg yolks, gold leaf, gems and minerals. She recently completed a large group of paintings for a New York church and is working on a commission, a tryptic of the Raising of Lazarus.
“When you paint an icon, you’re painting that saint only in light, in a transfigured body, a spiritual perfection," O’Malley says. “I love the spiritual aspect of it. I feel as if it's been what I have been training to do for my entire life."
What motivates you?
The desire to see my child graduate from college
What have you learned about yourself this year?
That I can thrive no matter what life throws at me. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and deepens your understanding of life.
You are married to David Teisler, also from Cleveland, and have a daughter, Maggie, 12, whom you adopted from China. What would you like to say about them?
Maggie is such a gift. She’s developing as a martial artist and musical talent, performing Mozart and Bach on piano and learning to sing things like liturgical pieces in Italian at the Bard Preparatory Division of the Conservatory, Plus, she’s the ultimate snuggle bunny.
What’s the best part of your day?
A good day is when I can meditate and paint, when it's quiet and the sun is out, and my family is happy, healthy and all in their right places.
What makes you smile? My daughter’s music and martial arts skills and her love of horses, plus, my dog’s utter devotion to me and my daughter, and my husband’s sense of humor that hits the mark every once in a while.