Archive for the 'K O’Brien' Category

Realms of Wonder ~ art by Kathleen O’Brien

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

The primary reason that I look forward with great anticipation to this Friday’s LexArts Hop is because Kathleen O’Brien has a new solo exhibition. The opening reception for Realms of Wonder at the M.S.Rezny Studio & Gallery is from 5 to 8 pm, and it is certain to be one of the highlights of the evening. It was no surprise when a local Marketing Maven recently exposed herself as a Kathleen O’Brien “groupie,” and I suspect that there are far more than two of us. It’s not at all baffling to find oneself totally captivated by her visionary art.

Kathleen’s artwork clearly grows out of how she thoughtfully observes and attunes with the world of nature. It also literally contains and preserves natural ingredients. But in contrast to collage that maintains its focus on formal or intellectual juxtapositions, Kathleen’s art always nudges one toward a deeper sense of wholeness and the inner complexity of our balanced existence as both organic and spiritual beings. Without question, she has made a personal commitment to creating art as a mystical practice, and, on a communal level, to providing nature-inspired beauty as a source of healing in a fractured world. With the strong presence of these intangible dimensions, Kathleen’s art is always esoteric, and yet she manages to make the work accessible to all with her choice of subject matter and allegiance to traditional drawing. At the same time, she can delight the eye of a fellow artist with her methodology, aesthetic choices, and pictorial skill. I’m not ashamed to admit that much of Kathleen’s symbolic virtuosity is beyond my ken, but I appreciate that it’s all in play at the intuitive level. Being near the prolific output of her creative life is simply uplifting, and that’s because all the facets of her art —whether conscious or subliminal— unify as a total perception to nourish the mind, heart, and soul.
 

Here is a video of Kathleen in the studio discussing her art.
Find out more about the artist at her website or blog.

3 Worlds (detail, This World)
mixed-media collage, © Kathleen O’Brien
22 x 15 inches

More personal miniatures . . .

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

 

It Could Have Been You
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of M Higgins

Elusive Legibility
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of K O’Brien

On To 100
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of J Fulton

Defoliata
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of E H Simpson

Jocular Assimilation
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of D Breidenbach

Sign Up For Another
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of S J Montgomery

First exhibition of 2013

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

“What makes a painting meaningful is the spectacle of the ordinary content living together with the equally important life of the picture plane and the unity of the whole surface.”
— Gillian Pederson Krag

It pleases me to say that my most recent large-scale artwork will be on display and available for purchase as part of an invitational exhibition now hanging in my hometown.

NEW YEAR NEW ART ~ Community Arts Center, Danville, Kentucky
January 2 to 26, 2013 ~ Reception: January 10, 6–8 pm

The invitation to participate is an honor for two reasons. It is always good for one to know that local people appreciate collage, especially the more esoteric kind. Even more humbling is to be included among some truly outstanding Kentucky artists, such as Sheldon Tapley, Helene Steene, Kathleen O’Brien, and Marianna McDonald. I’m looking forward to the reception this Thursday. Mayor Steven Connelly of nearby Berea will speak on the powerful effect the arts can have on local economies. According to Programming Director Brandon Long, the intention is to showcase “fresh, new art that has the kind of excitement and energy of artists who know their work will go on display.” Many of the diverse works were created specifically for the exhibition, and that includes mine. Everything accepted had to have been executed since September.

Diamonds in the Rough is a composite of panels and stretchers. It is my latest effort to free collage from behind glass and approach the medium in a manner similar to the painted surface that stands on its own. I also departed from my typical rectilinear format, yet sought to maintain the type of perpendicularity that I frequently exploit for a unified structure. As usual, the color balance of found material plays a vital role in my overall composition. The lineage of the collage miniature is strong here. In fact, nearly everything I do to produce a major work comes from what I have learned from the small-format approach. This recognition is not meant in any way to devalue the miniature. I would hope that you have come to know my penchant well enough by now to appreciate that.

The next entry will include some detail crops and perhaps a few remarks about the process, too.
 
Diamonds in the Rough ~ J A Dixon

Diamonds in the Rough
collage construction by J A Dixon
36 x 36 inches
currently on consignment
 
Purchase this artwork!

By Heaven’s Good Grace

Friday, December 28th, 2012

“Whatever an artist’s personal feelings are, as soon as an artist fills a certain area on the canvas or circumscribes it, he becomes historical. He acts from or upon other artists.”
— Willem De Kooning

“You can never see too many things in a work of art. Itself, the work is a means for discovering what is already within us. The true work of art is more than its creator; it is always beyond him; soon it enters another orbit not his, because the artist changes, he dies, while the work lives in others.”
— Michel Seuphor

As I look back on six months of producing this site, I recognize that there are probably only a handful of people who currently pay a visit. To those of you who do, please accept a sincere tip of the hat. I hope that you find my periodic entries to be stimuli worthy of your time. Perhaps 2013 will bring a wider audience.

Collage is a distinctively collaborative medium, at times directly, but always indirectly. We are continuously interacting with those responsible for the ingredients we value enough to incorporate into a work. They might include one of the finest masters of the brush, an outstanding photographer, a bull-pen illustrator, an obscure commercial artist, or an anonymous shipping-carton keyliner. All that matters is this: Each has in some way caught hold of our eye, mind, or heart. Each has become an influence and unwitting contributor. For reasons not entirely clear, some of us attempt to have a more active effect on the state of our art by regularly making words, too. Allow me to bring a few stimulating blogs to your attention, if you haven’t already discovered them—

matthew rose studio
kathleen o’brien studio
a collage a day
daily collage project
with scissors by hand
paper with a past
every day should be a red letter day
lynn whipple’s blog
janice mcdonald collage art studio
four corners design
the altered page
collage clearinghouse

 

By Heaven’s Good Grace ~ J A Dixon

By Heaven’s Good Grace
collage miniature by J A Dixon
5 x 5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

The ’61 Olds

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
—John Shedd

For some time now I’ve been observing how Matthew Rose and Randel Plowman make effective use of birds, and I acknowledge that there is something irresistible about including them in a collage. Most likely, it goes back to Joseph Cornell’s aviaries. I also noticed that I placed a bird in my Face with Asparagus as a sort of eyebrow. I intend to use that image as the “face” of The Collage Miniaturist. Below is a study lifted from one of my personal journals, which tend to be caught between a collection of organizational lists, private anecdotes, and diary of thumbnail sketches.

Since I’ve posted my review of Kathleen O’Brien’s recent exhibition, it’s probably time to sail this boat out into open water. Thinking of birds, perhaps I should say instead, fly out of the nest, —or— drive that ’61 Oldsmobile to a destination unknown. Tomorrow sounds good.
 

The ’61 Olds by J A Dixon

The ’61 Olds
collage miniature by J A Dixon
3 x 3 inches, not for sale

Gardenshapes ~ art by Kathleen O’Brien

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

“Beauty should be shared, for it enhances our joys.
To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime.”
―Joseph Cornell


 

I hesitate to use a sports term to begin this review, but, since the Summer Olympics opened last night, I’ll set my disinclination aside to state emphatically that artist Kathleen O’Brien is at the top of her game!

Gardenshapes —an exhibition of her mixed-media collage finishing its run in the main gallery of Danville’s Community Arts Center— has ample proof to support my claim. I made one more return visit yesterday to experience the diverse subtleties of her singular creations.

Inspired by birds and flowers, and exploring the garden as a metaphor, this collection of artworks represents everything that has captivated me for years about Kathleen’s approach. These works have clearly grown out of how she thoughtfully observes and attunes with nature. They also literally contain and preserve natural ingredients. But in contrast to collage that maintains its focus on formal or intellectual juxtapositions, Kathleen’s art always nudges one toward a deeper sense of wholeness and the inner complexity of our balanced existence as both organic and spiritual beings. Without question, she has made a personal commitment to creating art as a mystical practice, and, on a communal level, to providing nature-inspired beauty as a source of healing in a fractured world.

With the strong presence of these intangible dimensions, Kathleen’s art is always esoteric, and yet she manages to make the work accessible to all with her choice of subject matter and allegiance to traditional drawing. At the same time, she can delight the eye of a fellow artist with her methodology, aesthetic choices, and pictorial skill. I’m not ashamed to admit that much of Kathleen’s symbolic virtuosity is beyond my ken, but I appreciate that it’s all in play at the intuitive level. Being near the prolific output of her creative life is simply uplifting, and that’s because all the facets of her art —whether conscious or subliminal— unify as a total perception to nourish the mind, heart, and soul.

Getting back to the show, I was initially struck by the five largest pieces (28 x 36 inches), beautifully presented against white in deep gallery-style frames of natural wood. This “look” is familiar to those who know Kathleen’s art, and enhances the work’s identity as an unique artifact, preserved behind glass, like a rare botanical or zoological specimen. They are titled with reference to the garden theme. In contrast, a separate piece (24 x 30 inches) is presented with its surface exposed in the manner of an easel painting. It looks equally at home, released from behind the glass, expertly varnished in a way that does not distract. Its name is Heaven & Earth, Yin & Yang, Dark & Light, Birds & Trees, Flowers & Bees. My eyebrows lifted as I began to read the lengthy title, but was pleased with the closing rhyme as I finished. This artist always has a quiet surprise in store. Each of the large works is visually distinctive, but very much a cohesive part of a series unified by her long dedication to compositional abstraction, to a consistent theory of color, and to diligent mark making.

The large piece titled Garden for Queen Anne’s Lace is marked by a cellular pattern resembling microscopic tissue, which, while remaining highly abstract, transforms itself into a flower garden, with an interesting emphasis on each “drop of Queen’s blood” that, when closely examined, becomes a dance of circles, squares, and triangles —a dynamic that exemplifies Kathleen’s knack for taking the observer/participant through layers of meaning. The design also incorporates the application of illustrated postage stamps. Kathleen is never far removed from a devotion to cultural references and ephemera, and her Joseph Cornell influences are ever present. A fine example of this are four pieces dedicated to bird-species (16 x 20 inches) that combine found printed patterns with her typical labor of liquid media. Nests are created with random shards and colorful scraps. Dried and painted star-like blossoms effectively merge the organic, symbolic, and celestial. In Kathleen’s collage there are many allusions to language, both literal and archetypal, and here we discover many fragments of the printed word, as well as her “trademark” calligraphy. I was particularly drawn to Garden for Blue Grosbeaks, a strong arrangement of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements that carries out more of her evident investigation into fundamental shapes —circle, square, and triangle. These compositions are anything but static, a characteristic of Kathleen’s art built on a myriad of ways in which she provokes eye movement by simulating the dynamic patterns of nature, often with the application of actual plants and minerals. A perfect case in point is 9 Bird Eggs (30 x 30 inches), with its nimble use of botanicals most artists would overlook as raw material, through which she creates a variety of rhythms within a formal, 3×3 grid structure.

I should mention that Kathleen’s control of what I call “implied viewing distance” is masterful. Enjoying her watercolor effects and hidden treasures up close is inevitably a satisfying experience, as is true with much of current small-scale mixed media collage, but her pieces also can be savored at a distance. I found myself continually studying a work from across the room and then, taking off my eye-wear, sticking my nose near the glass to examine fine detail. Whether from this point of view or from half a block away, Kathleen’s distinctive impression is always recognizable, an enviable accomplishment for any artist. For example, both Royal Lily Garden and Staple Garden contain brushwork that only can be achieved by someone who is continuously handling liquid on a tool and is fully at ease with her surface. On the other hand, she uses this micro-fluency to create the intended multi-layered depth of her macro-composition, and yet I was constantly invited to step back into the intimacy of the picture plane, much as one feels when standing back to admire a flower garden, while being compelled to converge at hand’s length, only to spy a miniature surprise —a dutiful pollinator or tiny feat of nature’s diversity within repetition.

With my fixation on the bigger paintings, it was too easy to neglect the smaller items, so I had to instruct myself to visually isolate and appreciate several other works. Two of these were within squares, and each have treatments not as pronounced elsewhere in the exhibition. Feathers uses paper itself as a dimensional medium, and The Blessing of Rain features a darker atmospheric background —a shimmering chalk texture that makes me wish Kathleen would more intensively explore the potential of pastel effects. In addition, there are three bird portraits (9 x 12 inches), with coatings of what appeared to be beeswax, which recall for me the investigations of 19th-century naturalists. My favorite is Garden for Eastern Bluebirds, with its deft pencil work and luscious color palette. Kathleen pushes her highly capable layering beyond technique to create a sense of time distortion, an interplay of wildlife and cultural antiquity that makes certain the work is much more than a lovely rendering of birds. Throughout this outstanding show are many such allusions to natural and human-made cycles that fuse the worlds of growing things and a striving race that has always responded with symbolic culture to seek a balanced place in the scheme of life.

Indeed, Kathleen O’Brien has found her place. With a home studio close to nature, and a creative passion that distills her observations and meditations through heart, head, and hand, she is a gold-medal artist of the soul.

© 2012, John Andrew Dixon

Garden for Eastern Bluebirds and Garden for Scarlet Tanagers
by Kathleen O’Brien