Germany

Playing With Fire Now Showing at Galerie Uhn

My exhibition at Galerie Uhn in Königstein, near Frankfurt, Germany opened with an enthusiastic gathering, highlighted by a classical music trio, reunions with dear friends, and a great response to my new work.

I also gave an artist talk on September 2nd, when I had an opportunity to discuss this work in public for the first time, using a Q&A format led by gallery owner Jimin Leyrer.

A very big thank you to Jimin and her family for lots of generous support and hard work to make this a great show, and to Ann-Katrin Sura for hosting a delightful gathering after the Vernissage.

There's also a brief article about the exhibition here (open the link with Chrome and it can translate for you).

The exhibition runs until 28 September.

Exhibition: Playing With Fire at Galerie Uhn

Galerie Uhn's brochure for my upcoming solo exhibition just went out, a copy below. The work is all finished and framed, ready for the long drive to Germany in a couple of weeks. I'm renting a long-ish van for trek, as some of the work that I'm bringing for this show and our CKCK group exhibition is too large for my SUV. Shipping so much work is cost-prohibitive. Eurotunnel, here I come - oh, the glamorous life of an artist!

Save the Dates: August 25th and September 1st Vernissages in Germany

On Friday, August 25th I'll be at Galerie Uhn in Königstein-im-Taunus, Germany for the opening of my second solo exhibition with the gallery. I'm excited to debut my burned paper sculpture series, Playing With Fire, for German collectors. 

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 43 (Orange) , detail. Paper, spray paint, flame. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 43 (Orange), detail. Paper, spray paint, flame. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

I'll be in town until September 3rd, installing another exhibition in nearby Bad Soden with my artist collective CKCK, which opens on September 1st. I'll be showing different work there, including Object (Im)permanence and Mending | Tending.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

So if you're in the Frankfurt area, we have lots of opportunities to see each other - I would love that.

In the meantime, I've got my head down working on pieces for both shows, plus commissions. It'll be a happy race to the finish!

Playing With Fire | Galerie Uhn | 25 August – September 28, 2017 | Vernissage: Friday, 25 August, 19:00 | Königstein, Germany

In the Face of Everything | Stadtgalerie Bad Soden | September 2 - 24, 2017 | Vernissage: Friday, 1 September, 19:00 | Bad Soden, Germany

Mending What's Torn

After one of my many trips back to the United States last year, while my father was fighting cancer, I returned to my studio in England and started tearing paper. Then I sewed it back together. Tore some more. And kept sewing. 

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

As my father's illness progressed and the trips back and forth from the UK to the US mounted, I sought solace in the act of repeatedly tearing and mending the paper fragments. Some of the paper and thread objects feature watercolored edges, others are taped and then sewn. Some are machine-stitched, others sewn by hand.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

The work that has emerged from this repetitive action is a new series, Mending | Tending. As a close friend observed: “We mend what's been torn, and tend what we mourn.”

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress from Mending | Tending series. ©2017.

This new work will be shown along with Object (Im)permanence in the annual exhibition with my German colleagues of CKCK artist collective this September.

In the Face of Everything | Stadtgalerie Bad Soden | September 2 - 24, 2017 | Bad Soden im Taunus, Germany

New Work: Edgy

In recent months, my Playing With Fire commissions have evolved from dimensional pieces constrained by a mat and frame, to floating sculptural objects, unconstrained by form.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 47 (Edgy 1) . Paper, book thread, flame. 14 x 14 x 2 7/8 inches framed. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 47 (Edgy 1). Paper, book thread, flame. 14 x 14 x 2 7/8 inches framed. ©2017.

My new obsession has become the edges of these burned stacks of paper. While I give love and attention to every detail of a commission, I've been dreaming of how to celebrate their edges.

Burning down the house. Work in progress. Kelly M. O'Brien ©2017.

Burning down the house. Work in progress. Kelly M. O'Brien ©2017.

Enter Edgy, a series of small burned paper objects that flip the stacks on their sides and make each object all about this tiny but gorgeous feature. I've only just begun this series and am eager to see where it takes me.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 49 (Edgy 3) . Paper, flame. 14 x 14 x 2 7/8 inches framed. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 49 (Edgy 3). Paper, flame. 14 x 14 x 2 7/8 inches framed. ©2017.

Edgy will eventually show up as a grid of nine framed pieces – and probably a few special ones left unframed – in my solo exhibition with Galerie Uhn in September, details below.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 48 (Edgy 2) . Paper, flame. 14 x 14 x 2 7/8 inches framed. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 48 (Edgy 2). Paper, flame. 14 x 14 x 2 7/8 inches framed. ©2017.

Playing With Fire | Galerie Uhn | 25 August – September 28, 2017 | Vernissage: Friday, 25 August, 19:00

New Work: Phases

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire, No. 42 (Green) . Paper, flame, spray paint. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire, No. 42 (Green). Paper, flame, spray paint. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

This coming September I'll be debuting my Playing With Fire series in Germany with a solo exhibition at Galerie Uhn in Königstein-im-Taunus. Plans are coming along nicely for a body of work that both showcases work similar to the PWF commissions that I've been doing steadily for the past 18 months, as well as pieces that take the work in some new directions.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire, No. 36 (Pink) . Paper, flame, spray paint. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire, No. 36 (Pink). Paper, flame, spray paint. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

One such direction is Phases, a small series of six pieces that attempt to categorize and put order to an otherwise uncontrollable, ephemeral combination: paper and fire. Oh, the metaphors! The fact that these works emerged during a particularly stressful time in my personal life is no surprise.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire, No. 43 (Orange) . Paper, flame, spray paint. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire, No. 43 (Orange). Paper, flame, spray paint. 28 x 28 x .5 inches. ©2017.

Deep meaning aside, I'm particularly pleased with the experiments using subtle color. Viewed straight-on, the color is a faint glow of pink, orange or green. From an angle, the color becomes more noticable, a reward for looking at things differently.

Playing With Fire | Galerie Uhn | 25 August – September 28, 2017 | Vernissage: Friday, 25 August, 19:00

All images are by Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre, Bath

studio update: late summer 2014

Kelly O'Brien,  Home is Where You Are  (detail). Acrylic on paper on canvas. 2014

Kelly O'Brien, Home is Where You Are (detail). Acrylic on paper on canvas. 2014

Here in chilly gray Frankfurt, change is in the air already. Where did summer go? This is our fourth one in Germany, and I'm still not used to August days in the 60s and nights that dip into the 40s.

Which means I've been in the studio, making new work! My current focus is on acrylic painting, with some mixed media sculpture to keep things interesting. It feels like acrylics are opening up a whole new level of freedom. I've only scratched the surface and am eager to see where this goes.

Kelly O'Brien,  You Can't Run From Yourself . Acrylic on paper on canvas. 2014

Kelly O'Brien, You Can't Run From Yourself. Acrylic on paper on canvas. 2014

If you're in the Frankfurt area this autumn, you can see the new work in two upcoming exhibitions in October and November. Stateside, I am delighted to have mixed media prints included in The Joint Portfolio Project, with exhibitions at the Providence Art Club and Torpedo Factory in September and November. More on each of these as dates draw nearer.

Kelly O'Brien,  Inside Job . Acrylic on paper on canvas. 2014

Kelly O'Brien, Inside Job. Acrylic on paper on canvas. 2014

Speaking of change, the theme I'm exploring is Geographic Cure. My husband and I are moving to England this fall, so the topic has been on my mind. As much as I love living in Germany and will miss the friends I've made here, I look forward to what lies ahead. I'm learning that with a little conscious effort, you can stay connected and involved, wherever you live.

Upcoming exhibitions:

September 7 - October 3, 2014: The Joint Portfolio Project Exhibition, Moitié Gallery, Providence Art Club, Providence, RI

October 24 - 26, 2014: To Be Continued | Fortsetzung folgt, grassgrün, Frankfurt, Germany

November 1 - December 31, 2014: The Joint Portfolio Project Exhibition, Printmakers Inc, Torpedo Factory, Alexandria, VA

November 2014 - January 2015: She is Herself, Frauenartztpraxis Dr. Med. Seelig, Bad Soden, Germany

house with four rooms: new work underway

Since returning from ArtPrize, I've been head-down creating new work for my first exhibition here in Germany. This opportunity came about as the result of a small, informal working artists' group that I formed earlier this year. We've been meeting more or less monthly as a way to keep our work moving forward and grounded.

There are three of us - Astrid Haas, Astrid Blasberg, and myself - in this show. Thanks to Astrid B's relationship with her former employer, Fachhochschule Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt's University of Applied Sciences), our exhibition is part of the university's culture programming which brings arts onto campus through a series of monthly events.

Our theme is inspired by the title of Rumer Godden's autobiography, A House With Four Rooms:

There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person. -Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms

The exhibition, sponsored by the master's degree program in Healthcare Administration & Contracting, will explore the notion of what it means to be a "whole person" through a range of media: artist books, painting, printmaking, and paper sculpture. I am working on four paper dress sculptures, each dress representing one of the four "rooms."

House With Four Rooms

November 14 - December 12, 2012

Opening reception: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 1:00 pm

Fachhochschule Frankfurt am Main

University of Applied Sciences

Nibelungenplatz 1

D-60318 Frankfurt am Main

t-minus 32 days and counting

Hadiya Williams, Pyramid Atlantic letterpress calendar 2011My husband, Ian, and I looked at each other today and gasped: 32 days until we move our entire home, pets and lives to Germany! We've been so caught up in talking about, deciding about, planning for, and now managing the myriad tasks of an international move, that I'm missing the point.

This blog is titled Designing a Life for a reason. I started it three years ago because I wanted to explore and document my journey of intentionally creating an authentic life. By that I mean making choices and taking action to live wide-awake, and doing what I must to keep the spark alive, feet on the ground, and soul satisfied.

(Re)discovering my artist self has been a big part of the life redesign, well-documented here. While the art is an expression of my transformation, I've left some things out. Not that I need to share my every thought here, but I think that a huge part of "life design" is conjuring the courage to carve an intentional path in the first place.

Which that brings me back to art and Germany. Each of these decisions alone is asking more of me than I could have imagined. Together, they're making my head spin a little, but in a good way.

Nobody could have prepared me for the "stuff" that's getting stirred up by leaving a well-paying 25+ year career in business to hitch a ride on the train of soul-feeding creative opportunities that feel so right I can't believe it. I came of age in the 80s when women wore power suits and many of us out-earned our spouses.

Nobody could have prepared me for what it feels like to be in the enviable but terrifying position of sitting down to face my new professional self, an artist, every day and do the work.

Nobody could have prepared me for the angst of choosing to leave a well-grounded, rich, happy life in Alexandria, VA in exchange for living without regrets by choosing to go on this adventure with my husband.

While my identity appears to be shifting at the speed of light, this has been years in the making. Current events such as shutting down my consulting practice, terminating my lease at Printmakers, and the enormous dog crate in our living room only make it feel as if life is spinning quickly into something I don't recognize anymore.

I don't want to miss a minute of this, though. Instead of just "getting it done," I owe it to myself to pay attention. One way is to start writing about the whole story here. To focus on the art and the backstory that inspires it in the first place.