Kelly M. O'Brien, installation view, Object (Im)permanence with floor frames. © 2017 Image: Anna Meuer
"Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after." – Virginia Woolf
Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed. It stems from early childhood developmental psychology to describe the stage when a child understands that objects exist and events occur in the world independently of one's own actions.
The longer I live at a distance from people I care deeply about, the more I have learned to deploy object permanence with them. While these relationships cannot be neglected – on the contrary, they must be carefully tended – they are reinforced by a fundamental belief that the ties can be relied upon to sustain the connection. Likewise, in our respective absences, lives unfold without our presence.
The work consists of disparate images – scenes from childhood, maps, and recent snapshots of the surrounding English countryside – incised, layered and machine-stitched over and into. Sewing over the blended photographs and other ephemera, I seek a form of seamless integration and permanence. It is a domestic act of mending together, of tacking the past to the present and the near to the far away. As a technique, it slows me down to feel at home with the images, what they represent, and the life I choose here and now.
The reverse sides of the pieces offer another perspective, more abstract and unpredictable in how lines and images intersect. The backs of these pieces were left to chance, perhaps an apt metaphor for how life unfolds, full of surprises and unforeseen outcomes. The work is framed to reveal both sides; larger pieces are left unframed and suspended for viewers to walk around.