Kirk O’Hara’s art speaks. His intimate portraits reveal both his emotions and those of his subjects. His vibrant Southwestern paintings give us a peek into the area’s history. And his custom skateboards help athletes express themselves in more ways than one. His work does a lot of talking. Perhaps it is fitting that it is all done with his mouth. You see, Kirk O’Hara was born with arthrogryposis, a disabling condition that limits the use of his arms and legs. So each brushstroke of his striking paintings is made with a flick of his head and neck, with his paintbrush clenched firmly between his teeth.
O’Hara’s ultimate aspiration is to have his work serve as a visual diary.
“I am grateful that I can use this medium to be honest and reflect my feelings on the canvas,” he shares.
Though O’Hara’s method is unique, the resulting work is universal. “I’ve found my voice in painting and strive to send a message that everyone can understand.” Each collection tells stories of freedom in the face of adversity and represents the artist’s unchained ambition and love for life.
O’Hara’s pieces appeal to a diverse demographic of collectors. His style has evolved during his career from pieces inspired by traditional Southwest customs to works with a more commercial appeal. During college, he immersed himself in the punk rock scene and was strongly influenced by bands like Misfits and Metallica. He began painting moving portraits of modern pop stars and series that reflect island, surf and skateboard cultures. His works are available both as prints and as one-of-a-kind skateboard decks. O’Hara’s collections have an inimitable draw that unites us.
A native of Mesa, Arizona, O’Hara’s talent for painting was discovered and championed by his mother at a young age.
She strongly advocated for him to be able to attend traditional public school despite his disability. His first visit to the art room at school prompted a personal epiphany and he was instantly hooked. He illustrated his reports and assignments using oil on canvas and quickly found that painting was an area in which he excelled.
He began private lessons at the age of 12, and exhibited his first show three years later at 15. Enjoying selling his work professionally, he ventured out selling his work at local programs to build his exposure. The press took notice. At 16, he completed a twelve-painting series and sold every piece in just a few hours into the show.
Now a full-time artist, O’Hara has completed vocational training in commercial arts and photography, has studied life drawing, design, art history and color comprehension. He is a member of the Southwest Art Association and his paintings have been featured in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and at the Clarion Hotel in Denver.
Active in his community, O’Hara has contributed works to fundraising events to benefit missing and lost children, Amnesty International, shelters for abused women and animal rescues. He is a much-requested motivational speaker at schools, churches and local businesses, and serves as a mentor to recovering alcoholics.
Kirk O’Hara’s collections exude a personal energy that is hard to find in the contemporary art world. Take a look at his astonishing work and find out what it says to you.