microwave project

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

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.

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.

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.