Soho Myriad

December Studio Update: A Year to Remember

As 2017 winds down, I am grateful. While it has been the hardest year of my life (one reason I am thankful it is over), it has also been one of unexpected opportunity, growth, and new beginnings.

New Commission + New Toy: Dubai Hotel project

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 25  and  No. 26 . Paper, gold leaf, flame. 35.5 x 29 x 2.65 inches each. ©2016. Commissioned for The Address Boulevard Dubai. Images: Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 25 and No. 26. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 35.5 x 29 x 2.65 inches each. ©2016. Commissioned for The Address Boulevard Dubai. Images: Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre

What happens when you take a blowtorch to paper? All kinds of toasty, crispy, singed wonderfulness! These two recent commissions for The Address Boulevard Dubai are evidence that you can do so without burning down the studio.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 26 (detail) . Paper, gold leaf, flame. 35.5 x 29 x 2.65 inches. ©2016. Commissioned for The Address Boulevard Dubai. Image: Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 26 (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 35.5 x 29 x 2.65 inches. ©2016. Commissioned for The Address Boulevard Dubai. Image: Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre

Contrary to what I thought would happen, taking torch to paper allows for a range of effects. From subtle surface browning - kind of like toasting a marshmallow - to complete combustion, the possibilities are surprising. As I work more with a torch, I'm eager to see how the work evolves.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 25 (detail) . Paper, gold leaf, flame. 35.5 x 29 x 2.65 inches. ©2016. Commissioned for The Address Boulevard Dubai Image: Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 25 (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 35.5 x 29 x 2.65 inches. ©2016. Commissioned for The Address Boulevard Dubai Image: Z. Al-Gafoor, Image Centre

I'm very pleased for this work to be landing in a completely different part of the world, and grateful for the continued support for my work by the team at Soho Myriad Fine Art Consultants.

New Commission: Paper Wall Panels for Norwegian Cruise Lines

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 22 , detail. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 32 x 32 x 2.65 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 22, detail. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 32 x 32 x 2.65 inches. ©2016.

This new commission for Norwegian Cruise Lines recently shipped out for framing, once again through the capable hands of the fine art consultants at Soho Myriad. This is our third custom project together (and nine total pieces) since September and it feels like we're starting to get it down to a system. I really appreciate Soho Myriad's experience in the business of commissioned commercial art—and am happy that I tend to be a quick study!

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 21 and 22 . Paper, gold leaf, flame. 32 x 32 x 2.65 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 21 and 22. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 32 x 32 x 2.65 inches. ©2016.

The two pieces we're creating for NCL will go on their Hawaiian cruise ship, Pride of America, in dry dock for refurbishment through mid-March. They were originally to hang in the revamped Mandara Spa, but once they were finished, we realized that their depth might require them to be placed elsewhere.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 21 , detail. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 32 x 32 x 2.65 inches. ©2016.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 21, detail. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 32 x 32 x 2.65 inches. ©2016.

With these pieces under my belt, I am itching to try some new ideas for this series. We have another commission in the pipeline, so it might be an opportunity to play with fire even more.

New Commission: 5-Piece 2D Paper Sculpture for Hotel

The second commission for the Franklin Marriott Hotel and Conference Center shipped to Atlanta recently. The Soho Myriad framers are hard at work constructing box frames before sending the work on to Nashville for final installation.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 16 - 20 , work in progress. Paper, gold leaf, flame. Dimensions variable. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 16 - 20, work in progress. Paper, gold leaf, flame. Dimensions variable. ©2015.

These pieces are different from the first commission of two circular forms. For this second project, the client wanted straight, angled pieces to hang as a group of five—an interesting challenge because the individual pieces have to relate to one another once they are installed on a large wall. Wide matting is being added to expand the framed sizes. This will further change the relationship of the pieces to one another, so I had to allow for "give" in the design.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 17 - 20 , work in progress. Paper, gold leaf, flame. Dimensions variable. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 17 - 20, work in progress. Paper, gold leaf, flame. Dimensions variable. ©2015.

The individual pieces range from 20”h x 27.5”w (38”h x 46”w framed) to 24h" x 30w" (46”h x 57”w framed), and are ten layers deep. So the finished box frames are approximately 4" deep.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 19 , work in progress. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 19, work in progress. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

Speaking of framing, it's a key part of the process. I wanted a more open feel to the work, so the layers progress large to small, bottom to top. This makes for very tricky work to stabilize and mask the edges for a clean look. I'm grateful that Andrea Emmons and her framing team at Soho Myriad have the experience and confidence to handle this.

When I get images of the framed, hung work installed on location, I'll share them here.

New commission: "Playing With Fire"

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 14  (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 14 (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

I'm very pleased to share that I just completed two commissioned pieces for the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Franklin, Tennessee. They are larger versions of the Playing With Fire work that I did in 2013 to exhibit as part of Marseille-Provence Culture Capital 2013 programming.

The two commissioned pieces are much larger (30 x 24 inches) and will be matted and mounted in 3-inch deep box frames to become 72 x 54 inches. They will hang on opposite walls in a corridor at the conference center. I'm very eager to see final installation photos!

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 14  and  No. 15 . Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches each. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 14 and No. 15. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches each. ©2015.

Scaling up to the larger size was a challenge. Not only are the materials trickier to work with, but there's a lot of smoke involved. Because the work is created by burning the paper, I couldn't do it in my studio indoors. We have an semi-finished stone outbuilding on our property that I converted to a temporary studio. It's dry and clean enough, after some elbow grease, to be suitable for this paradoxically messy yet pristine kind of work.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 14  (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 14 (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

Playing With Fire explores the tension between control and letting go. Fire as a medium forces me to let go – it is unpredictable, and simultaneously destructive and creative in how it interacts with paper. Fire also represents a fine line that fascinates me about what we allow ourselves to have in life. How can we have light, heat, spark and glow without self-destructing? As black and white as this work appears, for me it's all about finding a happy medium.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 14  (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 14 (detail). Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches. ©2015.

As I entrusted the carefully packaged work to the nice FedEx International shipping men yesterday, I said a silent prayer to Hermes that they arrive in good shape to the framers in Atlanta before their final journey to Nashville. Special thanks to Shannon Douglas at Soho Myriad, the fine art consulting firm who brokered the project. I look forward to doing more!

Both pieces ready for packaging (and tail end of my studio assistant, Astro, left). Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 14  and  No. 15 . Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches each. ©2015.

Both pieces ready for packaging (and tail end of my studio assistant, Astro, left). Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 14 and No. 15. Paper, gold leaf, flame. 30 x 24 inches each. ©2015.