installations

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

don't abandon my esthetic

In doing research for a project later this year, I'm reminded not to abandon my esthetic. The project calls for working in ways that are much bigger and bolder than I'm used to. However, it doesn't mean that I can't stay true to who I am in the process.

The details will remain a bit of a mystery here until the project is more official, but for now, let this fabulous video of Violise Lunn's work in paper couture be a hint and an inspiration. The narration is in French, but even if you don't understand the words, the images speak for themselves.

impromptu installation

We arrived a week ago in Germany and are settling into our new home in the endlessly charming town of Königstein. While our household goods float across the Atlantic for four weeks, we’re rattling around in our empty house and making the best of our “executive expat” rental furniture package. No complaints, actually – so much nicer than living in yet another transitional place for a month.

In the meantime, in addition to navigating the myriad details of daily life in a language I don’t speak and culture that is noticeably different from the US, I’ll be working on small projects that I mailed ahead. Today, as I unpacked two boxes of art tools and materials, I thanked myself for sending the gift of something familiar and grounding: art!

One of the projects is to make progress on an edition of 50 miniature artist books for the Moving Parts boxed set. The books are small accordion-fold pieces that expand into a wearable tutu. The 234-inch long strips of handmade paper that will become tutus turned into an impromptu installation as I hung them from our second floor banister to unwrinkle.

View into my future studio on the first floorParis checks things outText is commentary on the connections between dance and lifeImpromptu installation of myTurningPointe accordion books waiting to be worked on

g40 pics and links

Kelly O'Brien, Grace in Full Bloom (detail) at G40 Art Summit (photo credit: Joshua Yospyn for Worn Magazine)Kelly O'Brien, Grace in Full Bloom at G40 Art Summit (photo credit: Joshua Yospyn for Worn Magazine)Grace in Full Bloom by Kelly O'Brien at Art Whino's G40 Art SummitA big thank you to Art Whino, microWave Project, and Brightest Young Things for pulling off an extraordinary event! I'll continue to post images here as they appear. In the meantime, you'll find some awesome slideshows of all the work here and here. Check out the party scene here and here. And a growing list of press clips about the event here.

grace in full bloom

Finished installing my very first installation yesterday, for the G40 "new brow" art event taking place in DC's U Street Corridor through June 17.

My piece, Grace In Full Bloom, is a celebration of everything I love about the materials I work with and what it means to have found what one truly loves in life. I've set Grace, my handmade-papered dress form, in a paper and moss garden. Her skirt (inspired by a long dancer's tutu) is made of hundreds of dress pattern paper flowers. Butterflies - cut from decades-old French text books that I've been keeping for something special - swarm out of a closet and across the room.

This being my first installation, I had no idea what to expect. Well, the first thing was to face down the fear of doing it. When I told my friend Mandy that I got invited by microWave Project to do this and that it was freaking me out, she immediately said something like, "and you're going to do it, right?"

What is it about art and fear? That's a whole other blog post, but something I've been contemplating for a while. Anyway, I'm very happy with how it turned out.

G40 opens to the public this coming Friday, May 20th at 10 pm. In addition to four floors of awesome art on display daily through June 17, the Opening Weekend looks like big fun:

  • Friday May 20th: Fatback DJs bring 3 of their parties into one space: FATBACK classic/ TENDERLOIN (slow jams in the lounge) / QUE SERA (garage rock in the garage). 10pm. FREE
  • Saturday May 21st: END OF THE WORLD PARTY (in anticipation of rapture) feat: Chris Burns, All Girls Squad DJs (Ultra Nate and Lisa Moody), House of Soul (Live band), Sam Burns, NavBox, Rosario, Roger Samuel, Mike Fisher, Sarah. 10pm. $1 DOOR DONATION
  • Sunday May 22nd: Special POST RAPTURE Pocket Gays Sunday School daytime brunch gathering: food truck food, st.germaine champagne cocktails, games, music etc

I'm sure there will tons of photos to post soon, which I'll do here and on TurningPointe Press' Facebook page.

art whino g40 summit

I'm thrilled to be part of microWave Project's stable of installation artists participating in the massive urban art attack known as G40. From what I've seen so far, this will be quite the scene and series of events.

Event Location
vitaminwater® uncapped LIVE
2213-2217 14th street NW (the corner of 14th and W NW, Washington, DC)

G40 Exhibit Schedule:
Exhibit runs: May 19th-June 17th,  2011
Open Hours: Tuesday & Thursdays: 5 – 10pm,
Fridays & Saturdays: 12pm – 11pm
Sundays: 12pm – 6pm
Mondays: Closed

Entertainment schedule:
Brightest Young Things will curate unique special events in the space six days a week (Tues-Sun) to include live music, dance parties, local designer showcases and fashion events, photobooths, art workshops and talks, stand up comedy, cult movie nights, record fairs and more.

For full details and a sneek peek at some of the art, click here.