Journey to MY MFA Degree Show

Our MFA degree show closed last night. The culmination of my 2-year fine art degree is bittersweet. I've literally sweated in a glass studio and stressed over grading deadlines. I've come so far in my creative journey, and I'm looking forward to wherever this path takes me.

Most of September has been consumed by preparation for the show. I've done everything from installing my art to sweeping the building's courtyard. Being an artist is so glamorous!

Kelly M O'Brien, Untitled (detail), glass, steel, latex, PVC-coated nylon ©2019

Kelly M O'Brien, Untitled (detail), glass, steel, latex, PVC-coated nylon ©2019

I love the piece above, but it didn't make the cut for the show. It juts straight out from the wall, hand blown glass precariously perched on a long steel rod. I was very proud of myself for learning how to fabricate and install this one. The process is just as important as the end result.

I've been sharing sneak peeks and reveals on Instagram. Follow me there to see them.

Approximately 36 hours before our grading deadline, I received an email from a classmate with the message that there had been an accident in my studio where my work had been installed and finalized for assessment. The centerpiece of my exhibition had fallen and crashed, shattering a glass element and making a crater in the floor.

Kelly M O’Brien,  This May Be Under the Stated Weight (Aftermath) , detail. Steel, glass, paper, thread, tulle, plastic. 230 x 350 x 122 cm ©2019

Kelly M O’Brien, This May Be Under the Stated Weight (Aftermath), detail. Steel, glass, paper, thread, tulle, plastic. 230 x 350 x 122 cm ©2019

After absorbing the initial shock of the news, I quickly realized it was an opportunity. Given my research focus on precariousness and resilience in our contemporary moment, what better way to illustrate that than through failure? Suddenly, the other work in my exhibition looked that much more vulnerable in all their glassy precarity.

I assessed the situation in person, slept on it, and realized that the option of replacing the fallen work with other, more well-behaved pieces felt boring in comparison. This was the exciting breakthrough (no pun intended) I’ve been looking for in visual expression and boldness.

You can see the complete piece and more images from my degree show here and here.