Urban Paintings Show A Colorful, Gritty Side of Boston

By Seth Daniel

There are few out-of-the-way corners in the city that Jim Connelly hasn’t been.

There are even fewer of those places that he hasn’t painted.

The colorful, urban landscape painter has lived in the Fenway for the past 30 years, but has focused his unique paintings on hidden spots within the urban landscape – such as the reflection of the Citgo sign in a puddle on the sidewalk or a mysterious looking door situated oddly the middle of an industrial building adjacent to the South End. His paintings reflect graffiti on the walls and the gritty truth of places many pass by thousands of times in a lifetime, yet never fully notice.

A great collection of those paintings are now adorning the walls of the Copley Society of Art on Newbury Street, where Connelly has been an accepted artist since 2008, in a show called, ‘Urban Vision.’

“I’ve been in the City for 30 years or more, living in the Fenway,” he said. “I went to school at the New England School of Art and Design when it was on Newbury Street way back in the day. Just walking around the city and looking at a lot of different places, some of them very noticeable and some out of the way, something will inspire me. Sometimes it won’t stick out to me at all for a long time. Then one day I might be going by it and the light will hit it just right and I’ll say, ‘Wow, I have to paint that.’”

Connelly was discovered at an Art Walk by members of the Copley Society and has fit right in with his street-savvy art – which he completes using photographs. A graphic designer for Eversource electric company by day, he works mostly in his spare time.

“I really started doing painting about 10 to 12 years ago, doing small work that was 8 x 10 or 11 x 14,” he said. “I started with the Fenway Park series, which I love. That was an easy and iconic symbol to do and everyone loves it. Then I ventured out to do more city stuff.”

Some of his work includes entrances to Fenway Park during snow storms, others are pictures of the railroad bridge over the Charles River from an obscure angle – capturing all of the graffiti. Other places are totally out of the way, such as a mysterious doorway on the side of a graffiti-strewn brick building that lies in an industrial area just beyond the South End’s Worcester Square.

“Going where I go – to find some of these places – requires a little bit of work,” he said. “For the Charles River railroad bridge, my feet got pretty wet on that one. You have to sacrifice your body sometimes to get the perfect angle.”

Some of his work doesn’t even exist anymore, such as an old sign reading ‘RAPID’ above a parking lot near the TD Garden – an area that is now being engulfed with a new residential building.

“There are a lot of places in the city I’ve painted that don’t exist anymore,” he said. “That’s one of the interesting things about the work is that it documents the landscapes, even the ones that we can’t see anymore except in the paintings.”

Connelly will be giving an artist demonstration at the Copley Society at 158 Newbury St. on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 1-3 p.m. His show will remain in the upper gallery through Nov. 8.

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