30 x 46cm

Detail of me and my bicycle.
Summer of '73
12" x 18", oil, 2017

What do you do when you find a long lost photo of yourself as a young boy jumping off a makeshift ramp with a mustang bicycle in 1973? You make a painting out of it and embellish it with some of your favorite cars. Every moment I spent on this painting brought me back in time. I could imagine riding my mustang bicycle in my old neighborhood again. I could almost feel the chrome handlebars in my hands, pedals under my feet, sunshine on my face, and wind in my hair. I could remember the clapping sound made by my bicycle hitting the ramp and the crunching sound made by the rubber tires landing on the gravel.

This painting takes place in Montreal in the summer of 1973. The youngest of five children, I had just finished grade school and was slated to begin high school in the fall. This particular spot in the back lane of our neighborhood of La Petite-Patrie was the stomping grounds for three successive generations of O'Mearas from the 1920's to the 1980's with my brother Larry and I the last in the family lineage to play there. My brother and I were bilingual. We went to english school but lived in this french neighborhood. My brother and I spoke english to each other but french with our friends. Our shared interests with our friends outweighed any linguistic or cultural differences we may have had. The two most popular shared interests with our friends were riding our mustang bicycles and building foot powered wooden hot rods where one kid would drive and the other one would push from behind. There was a fervent car culture in our neighborhood. It was a great time and place to grow up in.

Detail of Ford Mustang.
It was also a time punctuated with great movies like The Great Escape and Bullitt. These two Steve McQueen movies made an impact on me at the time. Looking at the painting, I remember trying to emulate Steve McQueen jumping over the barbed wire fence in The Great Escape. I remember being disappointed by my efforts. I never got the height and distance on the jump that Steve McQueen got in the movie. As for Bullitt, the classic car chase between McQueen's 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback and the hitmen's 1968 Dodge Charger was a serious subject of conversation with our friends. I fell in love with the Ford Mustang after that and it has remained my favorite car ever since, hence the reason for including it in the painting.

Detail of VW Beetle.
Also included in the painting is a light blue 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. I added the Beetle for two reasons. First, it has always been one of my favorite cars, and second, it's a nod to the Bullitt chase sequence where a green VW Beetle (the same one every time) is passed four different times in less than a minute in a continuity error. This amusing misstep did not prevent the movie from winning the Academy Award for Best Editing.

Detail of Dodge Charger behind fence.
The third and final car added in the painting is the hitmen's Dodge Charger. It is located behind the fence, partly visible between the wooden slats. I included the Charger because the car and its occupants were in a recurring nightmare of mine with the same terrifying ending every time. This nightmare took place at this very spot in the neighborhood, but at night. It always ended with the hitmen getting out of their car and running after me. Oh how I wished for a different ending when this nightmare reared its ugly head, but it was not to be. I was destined to wake up in a cold sweat every time. This recurring nightmare eventually stopped. I laugh at this today, but when you're a kid, there's nothing more terrifying than two hitmen getting out of their car and running after you on a dark night.

Lastly, I would like to thank my eldest brother Dennis for taking the photo in 1973 that led to this painting 44 years later. Dennis was a talented athlete but when I think of him in the 1970s, two things come to mind before anything else: his joy of driving and his love for music. One of my greatest thrills was sitting in the front passenger seat of his Chevy Blazer. Best driver I have ever seen. He was my Steve McQueen. He also introduced me to great music like The Beatles, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, ELP, The Flock, Mahavishnu Orchestra, National Health, Soft Machine, and so on. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004, but in the time that he was on this earth, he introduced me to so many wonderful things. He was a definite influence in developing my appreciation for the arts. This painting would have never happened without him. I consider this painting a collaboration between both of us. Thank you Dennis. Miss you my dear brother. Love you always.