installation art

cherry blossom time in DC!

Peak Bloom , by Kelly O'Brien for microWave Project. Cherry blossoms made of paper, thread, glue and white mitsumata branches.

Peak Bloom, by Kelly O'Brien for microWave Project. Cherry blossoms made of paper, thread, glue and white mitsumata branches.

Three years ago, I did my first paper sculpture installation for microWave Project at Art Whino's G40 street art Summit. It was the start of something that I had no idea I could do or would find so obsessively fun.

Here we go again, this time like magic since I didn't have to actually do the installation myself. That task was left in the fine hands of Allison Nance and Mary Cook, the dynamic duo behind mWP.

Very happy to have my work on site for what looks to be a wildly creative, unique-to-DC event, happening tomorrow night through April 20. A bunch of fine artists' work will be on hand to enjoy and purchase.  Details below and lots of info here.

Cherry Blossom Inspired art, 3 Bands, 3 DJ's and a night not to be forgotten!  The sixth annual Cherry Blast: Art + Music Dance Party is Saturday, March 29 from 7:00pm-midnight at BLIND WHINO: SW Arts Club, a dedicated art space in Southwest Washington, DC (734 1st Street, SW).

Cherry Blossom Inspired art, 3 Bands, 3 DJ's and a night not to be forgotten! The sixth annual Cherry Blast: Art + Music Dance Party is Saturday, March 29 from 7:00pm-midnight at BLIND WHINO: SW Arts Club, a dedicated art space in Southwest Washington, DC (734 1st Street, SW).

Saturday, March 29th, from 7pm - Midnight

Lounge Area Music Schedule
7-9:30pm DJ Native Sun
9:30-Mid  DJ Ayescold

Main Performance Space Music Schedule
 7-8pm    Congo Sanchez (DJ Set)
 8-9pm    Congo Sanchez
 9-10pm  Honest Haloway
10-11pm Congo Sanchez
11-Mid    Nappy Riddem

734 1st St SW Washington, DC 22024

Tickets are $15 in advance for this 21-and-over event, and $20 at the door.
The event annually sells out every year so get em before its too late!
Tickets on sale now at HERE

Exhibit Hours:
After the reception the art exhibit will on display Sundays 11am-4pm April 6th - April 20th
Show end date: April 20th,  2014

Allison Nance installing  Peak Bloom  at Cherry Blast 2014

Allison Nance installing Peak Bloom at Cherry Blast 2014

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

artprize 2012, here we come!

Shades of Gray (ArtPrize 2012)In September of this year, I'll be doing something that's waaay out of my comfort zone: ArtPrize. Here's how the ArtPrize website defines the event:

The ArtPrize® event is an international art exhibition and social experiment.

It brings together an unprecedented conversation and critical dialog between the art world and the general public. The top prize in 2012, which is decided by public vote, is $200,000. A panel of arts professionals will decide our new, $100,000 Grand Juried Prize.

All prizes combined in 2012 total $560,000, the world’s largest total cash prize for art.

Why, you ask, am I doing this? Because I'm afraid of competition. Seriously, what better way to face down the fear of competition than to get involved in the race for the world's biggest art prize? Ok, no - it's not really why I'm doing it, but it's in the mix.

My entry is called Shades of Gray, a paper sculpture installation of a swan dancer, inspired by Swan Lake's Odette/Odile characters. Here's what I had to say in my artist statement:

Swan Lake’s Odette and Odile embody the dichotomy of white and black, light and dark. Yet inside each of us exists a little bit of both. We are complex, changing beings, not simply good or bad.

This piece is about a more nuanced approach: living in shades of gray. What if there were more options than all or nothing, yes or no, win or lose? What if we had a range of options for happiness?

Living in shades of gray is my current answer to this challenge. The irony of entering the world’s largest art competition is not lost on me. Is this yet another act of extremism? Or is it simply having the courage to face something I fear and allow myself to be, regardless of the outcome?

Hundreds of hand-cut and sewn swan feathers in productionI will attempt to chronicle both my entry and the experience as things proceed.

This week, I'm up to my neck in hand-cut, hand-sewn paper feathers for my dancer's head.

But that's not what's daunting. The logistics of getting everything and everyone to Grand Rapids is a whole other story.

It will be worth it, though. Thanks to the fine folks at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel -  smack in the middle of ArtPrize action - I'll have a prime spot in their grand lobby for Shades of Gray.

I have faith that it will all come together, espcially since I'll have my mom Donna, and über-friend Mandy on the team again.

For now, I'm happy to be past the entry deadline without backing out!

alpine installation art

"Horizon Field" by Antony Gormley, Vorarlberg, AustriaWe just returned from a week of alpine activities in the breathtakingly beautiful Vorarlberg region of Austria. The last thing I expected to encounter in this winter wonderland was installation art, but encounter it we did.

Antony Gormley's Horizon Field is a "landscape intervention" comprised of 100 life-sized cast iron human figures, all placed 6,689 feet above sea level in an area of over 93 square miles. The sculptures were scattered throughout the areas we skied, bearing silent witness to the extraordinary snowfall of this particular winter.

Mother Nature seemed to play along. Some sculptures were buried up to their shoulders in snow. Others were surrounded by ski tracks, left by visitors gliding by for a closer look.

Antony Gormley's "Horizon Field," (embellished)Humans played along, as well. I had mixed feelings when I visited this festively decorated sculpture. Fun? Sure. Disrespectful of the work? Perhaps.

Apparently the local authorities think so too, making regular runs to patrol for and remove these human interventions.

For more images, details, and an FAQ with the artist, click here.

Gormley's two-year installation remains in place through April 2012.

For a comprehensive list of things to do in the region, check out Jacky Miller's blog post 100 Best Things to Do in Austria.

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.

getting wild in west virginia!

I leave for West Virginia tomorrow to install my first large-scale paper sculpture installation. I’ve been commissioned by the dynamic duo behind microWave Project to create a fashion-inspired piece for the grand opening of a new shopping mall.

Paper flower studies for installation, "Grace's Garden," at Huntington MallWe (and I say “we” because this is taking a team of helpers!) will be creating a gown made of paper flowers for a mannequin sitting on a swing, over a field of paper flowers, with a 15-foot long paper train flying behind her.

The train will be made of deconstructed paper shopping bags (from our sponsor, naturally), folded into Japanese origami fans. She’ll be wearing a hat made of black velvet paper butterflies that fly up from her hat “through” the skylight in the mall’s ceiling.

I'm thrilled to have this opportunity! It's also wonderful to be sharing the spotlight with another installation artist, Lisa Schumaier. Her work is soulful, playful and unexpected. Lisa is creating a separate piece for the event and, from what I've heard, it's going to be amazing.

If you happen to be in the area, details are below. I’ll try to post images here and on Facebook of the work in progress, and certainly of the finished installation.

There's an invitation-only opening gala this Sunday night, but you can still see the installations through early January.

Huntington Mall Gala Opening, Barboursville, WV. December 4, 2011 – January 15, 2012.

grace finds home

The last project I did before moving from the states was an installation for Art Whino's G40, called Grace in Full Bloom. Shortly after deinstalling, Grace got packed up in her very own custom box and tucked into our shipping container for the ride across the ocean.

Since landing here in Germany on July 1, she's remained in her box, up to her shoulders in pink packing peanuts, waiting patiently to come out and take her rightful spot in my studio. A couple of weeks ago - box cutter in hand - as I started unpacking her, I stopped mid-cut. It suddenly occurred to me: that's me in that box.

"Grace in Full Bloom" up to her neck in packing peanuts.Okay, not really me. But the part of myself that I consider the most sacred and core to who I am. Clearly, we (Grace and I) haven't been ready to come out of our box and settle into this new house. How could we, with all the chaos of the move and challenge of starting over, not to mention a dog bent on destroying anything he deems mine every time I leave the house?

Until that moment, I hadn't been able to put my finger on why I was keeping Grace under wraps. Nearly all of the unpacking was finished, but she remained safely ensconced. Once I realized this, it became very clear for me what to do: I needed to welcome Grace home. But first, I had to create a suitable environment for her.

Last week, I unleashed a swarm of book paper butterflies on my studio. They fly in from our front door, down behind the stairwell, and down to Grace's feet...

"Grace Finds Home" (installation in home studio), with Beverly Ryan's oil paining, "Dancing Through.""Grace Finds Home" (paper installation in home studio), detailAnother batch flies up out of a light fixture, across the wall and into our guest bedroom.

"Grace Finds Home" (paper installation in home studio)"Grace Finds Home" (paper installation in home studio)A fellow-G40 artist inspired the light fixture idea - he had metal butterflies made from spray paint cans swarming from a light fixture on the first floor.

"Grace Finds Home," paper installation in home studio (detail)The butterflies are die-cut from vintage French book texts. I had two copies of Le Mariage de Figaro Tome II, making serendipidous use of black and white photography in the book.

"Grace Finds Home," paper installation in home studio (detail)"Grace" now home