huntington mall

hope blossoms

Hope blossomed at Huntington Mall in West Virginia last week, and Four Rooms closed this week in Frankfurt. It's been quite a month.

Hope Blossoms is a public art installation at Huntington Mall in Barboursville, WV. The installation includes a 25-foot tall paper cherry tree, paper swan ballerina, and paper pond. This is my second year there, after installing Grace's Garden last holiday season. You can visit Hope in center court through the end of May 2013.

For a look at A House With Four Rooms, click for images here and here. For a couple of lovely blog posts, click here for Heather McCaw Kerley's piece, and here for the Torpedo Factory's Jeff Sypeck.

For more on Hope Blossoms click here for a short video, here for a fun radio interview, and here for a short article.

One of my favorite things about this installation is the pond. It's made of cut paper text from Emily Dickinson's poem, Hope is the Thing With Feathers. Over the next six months, the pond will continue to fill with text as visitors toss their written "hopes" on small pieces of blue paper into the pond.

With the holiday season upon us, I'm grateful for the incredible support of family and friends, without whom these projects simply would not have happened: Ian Lowe, Mandy Gordon, Donna & Bill O'Brien, The Engen family (especially Brennah), Mary Cook and Allison Nance of microWave Project, Margi MacDuff (and family), the staff and FAB volunteers of Huntington Mall, Connie Sandusky, Jonathan Cox and Anthony Smith of Marshall University's Sculpture Program, The Huntington Museum of Art, Astrid Haas, Astrid Blasberg, the faculty and staff of Frankfurt-am-Main Applied Sciences University, the Germany-based flower making team led by Emily Ryan and assistants Tania Fiedler, Sophie Frey, Catherine Pilger, Shari Religa, the France-based flower making team of Ginette, Jacques and Hélène Lorblanchet, and Lisa Kokin.

There's more on my plate for January and the New Year...but for now, I'm content to reflect on a very satisfying and productive 2012. Gratitude is on my mind as the year winds down, and the focus for now.

Wishing you hope, peace and joy this holiday season.

amazing grace

Ever wonder what it takes to pull off a large-scale installation? I just found out, thanks to the many people involved in bringing Grace’s Garden to life. On behalf of microWave Project, an organization that matches artists with unique and public opportunities, Grace is now on exhibit in the entrance foyer of Huntington Mall.

I was one of two artists invited to create a fashion-inspired installation in honor of the mall’s re-opening after a massive renovation and upgrade. A Torpedo Factory colleague, Lisa Schumaier, created a seasonal installation of recycled materials, A Recycled Fairytale.

Grace consists of hundreds of hand-made, -sewn, and -folded paper flowers from fine art and tissue papers. A local mall store, The RoseTree Boutique, contributed hundreds of paper shopping bags that were transformed into flowers and origami fans for Grace’s train. Hundreds of paper butterflies comprise her fascinator (hat) that “fly” up through the skylight in the 30-foot ceiling.

Installing "Grace's Garden" (image: Allison Nance) "Grace's Garden" (detail) by Kelly O'Brien (image: Allison Nance) 


















Handmade paper flowers for "Grace's Garden" (image: Allison Nance)The elements for Grace’s gown, fascinator, and train were started months ago in my home studio in Germany. Most everything was pre-cut, flat-packed and shipped to the US.

There, a virtual workshop of helpers hand-assembled flower petals, folded origami fans, and generally worked non-stop up to and through the four-day installation.

We topped the whole thing off with a red carpet gala, featuring a dancing flash mob and celebrity appearances. The best part for me was sitting quietly to the side to watch people’s reactions to Grace.

The best surprises were the grown men stopping to snap her picture (“My wife has to see this!”) and watching little kids react (“Look Mommy, butterflies!”).



Allison Nance of microWave Project, Kelly O'Brien, Lisa Schumaier ("A Recycled Fairytale"), and Mary Cook of microWave Project at Huntington Mall Gala

We even garnered a little media attention through the local newspaper and television news.

A project like this does not happen in a vacuum. This was truly a family and friends affair. Moms, dads, husbands, sisters, nieces, a brother-in-law, and lifelong friends were up to their elbows in paper for days on end. A very special thanks to my onsite installation team: Donna O’Brien, Mandy Gordon and Elizabeth Smiley. Not only did these three women put in some crazy hours with me, they each played crucial and unique roles throughout the process. 

Mandy Gordon and "Grace" with her eyelash-protection gearDonna O'Brien and Kelly O'Brien in front of "Grace's Garden"



















Mary Cook, Elizabeth Smiley, and Mandy Gordon folding RoseTree Boutique shopping bags into origami fans for "Grace's" trainAlso onsite helping were Mary Cook, Allison Nance, Melanie Cox, Kelsey MacDuff, Eric Cook, and Kevin Nance.

Behind-the-scenes flower-makers include: Katie Engen, Katelyn Engen, Brennah Engen, Eric Engen, Bill O’Brien, Rita Evans, and Lindsey MacDuff.

The folks at Huntington Mall could not have been more friendly or helpful. They are: Joe Johnston, Property Manager; Margi MacDuff, Marketing Director; the facilities management team of Devin Holland, Alfonzo Samples and Chris Muncy; and RoseTree Manager Kate McMullen.




The mall is owned by the Cafaro Company, with an equally awesome team: Leonard Bretcko, Director of Construction; Phil Boyd and Hank Picozzi of JJO Construction; Esther Buschau, Director of Corporate Marketing; and Mr. and Mrs. Cafaro themselves, who came out to help celebrate their mall's renaissance.

Phil Boyd, Roger Pahoresky, and Kelly O'Brien hanging "Grace's" swingBehind it all was my husband, Ian. His support made all the difference, before and during the installation. When I got his 4 a.m. text on that final night, “You WILL finish!” I knew everything was going to be fine.

The amount of work and generosity of spirit required to pull this off was, well…amazing. I’m humbled by what people were willing to contribute, thrilled to have the opportunity, and brimming with ideas on what I’d like to do next.

Grace’s Garden on exhibit at Huntington Mall, Barboursville, WV now through January 7, 2012.