In the ’70s, O’Neal reintegrated vibrant color and expressionist gesture into her lampblack canvases; she has said it was as though the black paintings had been “unzipped” to reveal the color underneath. She expanded her tableaux on a monumental scale, layering 7 x 12-foot canvases with charcoal, pastel, dye, and glitter, in addition to paint. These subsequent series take inspiration from music and literature as well as her own lived experiences, from vivid childhood memories to the varied color and light experienced on her extensive international travels, particularly those to North and West Africa and the Atacama and Sahara deserts. For example, in her Whales Fucking series from the ’70s and ’80s, the abstracted forms of magisterial sea creatures arch and glide across lush backdrops of layered brushwork. O’Neal has explained “Whales are associated with freedom and a tremendous intelligence we don’t understand”; the works were inspired by her observations of whales swimming off the California coast, as well as by D.H. Lawrence’s poem, “Whales Weep Not!”. In her Panther series of the ’80s and ’90s, abstracted black panther forms prowl and pounce through the halls of Moorish palaces. The paintings’ space and structure were informed by the vernacular architecture O’Neal encountered in Morocco, where she completed an artist’s residency in 1984. Their imagery was also inspired by the Gian Carlo Menotti opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, in which she performed as a child when her father staged a production at his university. The black panthers themselves draw associations to the artist’s long history of activism. In more recent bodies of work from the 2000s, O’Neal has continued to mine not only the architecture but also the fabrics, costumes, food, pottery, and fauna of the places she has lived and worked, including Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Brazil, and Chile. A fantastical cast of imaginary characters people many of these works, their stories unfolding enigmatically from canvas to canvas.