New Work: Object (Im)permanence

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Object (Im)permanence No. 2  (front). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Object (Im)permanence No. 2 (front). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

Over the past year, I've spent a lot of time commuting to the United States from my home in England for family reasons. Some of the trips have been short, others up to six weeks at a time. It's been an unexpected opportunity to spend precious time with loved ones.

A new series of work, Object (Im)permanence, is emerging as a reflection of this time. It's deeply personal work, yet explores some universal ideas. Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed. It stems from early childhood developmental psychology to describe the stage when a child understands that objects exist and events occur in the world independently of one's own actions.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Object (Im)permanence No. 1  (front). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Object (Im)permanence No. 1 (front). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

The longer I live at a distance from people I care deeply about, the more I have learned to deploy object permanence with them. While these relationships cannot be neglected – on the contrary, they must be carefully tended – they are reinforced by a fundamental belief that the ties can be relied upon to sustain the connection. Likewise, in our respective absences, lives unfold without our presence.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Object (Im)permanence No. 3  (front). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Object (Im)permanence No. 3 (front). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

The work consists of disparate images, incised, layered and machine-stitched over and into. Sewing over the blended photographs and other ephemera, I seek a form of seamless integration and permanence. It is an act of mending together, of tacking the past to the present and the near to the far away. As a technique, it slows me down so that I can feel at home with the images, what they represent, and the life I choose here and now.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Object (Im)permanence No. 3  (reverse). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Object (Im)permanence No. 3 (reverse). Machine sewing over incised digital photographs on paper. 12 x 16.5 inches. ©2016.

The reverse sides of the pieces offer another perspective, more abstract and unpredictable in how lines and images intersect. The backs of these pieces were an unintentional happy accident. They seem an apt metaphor for how life unfolds, full of surprises and unforeseen outcomes. 

As this series evolves, I'll share more images here.