Reading Jac Scott's book, Textile Perspectives in Mixed Media Sculpture, it strikes me that my affinity for certain materials (paper, found photographs, papery artifacts such as vintage family documents, thread, tape) and an interest in creating temporary installations are an apt reflection of themes I am exploring through my work: impermanence, change, elusiveness, longing, loss. 

Scott frames the work of artists that she profiles in her book by discussing their research and creative processes, including how they use source material and the value of drawing. It was in reading about how some artists approach their sketchbooks that the lightbulb went off. Kieta Jackson works into and hand-binds her "logbooks" full of samples of actual fishing nets and woven copper materials, reference materials for her interest in entrapment—trapping and protecting her ideas along the way. Joanna Chapman uses elements of her sketchbooks (drawings, photographs, found objects, material samples) in her final work. Jac Scott feels "release" from her sketchbook when she moves to making large-scale versions of her drawings.

Kelly M. O'Brien,  Mending | Tending,  installation view. Stadtgalerie Bad Soden. © 2017 Image: Anna Meuer

Kelly M. O'Brien, Mending | Tending, installation view. Stadtgalerie Bad Soden. © 2017 Image: Anna Meuer

Looking back on my last installation, Mending | Tending, for an exhibition in Germany last month, I recall sitting in front of the finished piece for a long time, trying to "soak it in" while it existed, knowing that it was temporary. This sense of imminent loss and impermanence was exacerbated by the fact that I had to leave in two days to return home to the UK. The work was deinstalled a month later by other artists.

Work on parts of this installation had begun twelve months before, during a time of frequent commutes between the US and UK while my father was ill—a response and coping mechanism for an illness that progressed toward his death in March.

Only now am I starting to see the sequence of events that has led to my current interest in an art form that is inherently ephemeral and impermanent. Why am I interested in recreating these feelings? Will I work them out and come to some sort of peace with them? And how do other artists address these themes? What is their process? What subjects and mediums are they investigating? What is the broader context for their work?


Scott, J. Textile perspectives in mixed-media sculpture. Marlborough: Crowood Press, 2003.