Otto Neals, painter, sculptor and printmaker was born in Lake City, South Carolina. His family moved from the south to Brooklyn, N.Y. where he has resided ever since.
He is basically self-taught, however, he did study briefly at the Brooklyn Museum with Isaac Soyer and at the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop with Mohammed Khalil, Roberto DeLamonica and Krishna Reddy. He is proficient in many mediums including oils, watercolors, pastels and wood and stone carving.
In 1958 he participated in the newly founded Fulton Art Fair where he met artists such as Tom Feelings, Al Hollingsworth, Vivian Schuyler Key, Vincent Smith and Ernie Crichlow and Jacob Lawrence who were the co-Directors of the fair. To date, he is the only artist that has taken part in the exhibitions each year since its inception. He was also a founding member of the Harlem based group called the Weusi Artists which maintained a gallery called, Nyumba Ya Sanaa.
Neals’ works are in the collections of several notables including Harry Bellafonte, the Honorable Una Clarke, former N.Y.C. Council member, Randy Weston, Musician, Congressman John Lewis, Ruby Dee and Oprah Winfrey. His works are also included in the Ghana National Museum, The Studio Museum, and The Schomburg Library. He was commissioned by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation to create a work of bronze, entitled, “Peter and Willie”, for the Imagination Playground in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for which he was awarded the N.Y.C. Arts Commissions Award for Excellence in Design. Other commissions include ten bronze plaques for the “Harlem Walk of Fame” and a bronze work called “Discovery” for The Brooklyn Children Center.
His works have been exhibited at Kenkeleba Gallery, The Studio Museum, The N.Y. State Museum in Albany, N.Y., The Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y. and one-man shows at The Schenectady Museum, Schenectady. N.Y.,Benedict College, Columbia, S.C. and The Columbia Museum, Columbia, S.C. He was also chosen to create a cover for the June 1986 cover of Black Enterprise for which he also posed. Images of his works was also included in Ebony Magazine, Elan Magazine, Sculpture Magazine, Time Out, African Voices, The International Review of African American Art, and Who’s Who in American Art. The artist, writer, Elton Fax included him in “Black Artists of the New Generation”, one of his many books about art.
“My talent as an artist, I believe, comes directly from my ancestors. I am merely a receiver, an instrument for receiving some of those energies that permeate our entire universe, and I give thanks for haven been chosen to absorb those artistic forces. I try to paint and sculpt African people, working always to portray those characteristics true of their beauty, their power and their love, We are but shadows of those who have gone before us and I enter the world of the spirits, I hope to by example to touch a positive nerve in our youth.”