This month, the Arts Center’s Lunch with the Arts Program will feature Kathleen O’Brien, a local artist whose “Gardenshapes” collection was on display at the Arts Center in July. This month, O’Brien returns for a lunchtime presentation where she will show more of her work and give attendees a glimpse into her unique artistic process.
Just one look at O’Brien’s work shows that nature is a huge source of inspiration for her — each piece has flowers, vines, birds and other nature imagery entwined among the colors and textures. This intense layering gets at one of her biggest interests: what lies beneath the surface of things. By giving her art such depth and complexity, she hints at the same depth and complexity that exists in everyday life. As she explains, “I try to express the complexity and fragility of the world.” This can certainly be seen in her delicately detailed works, which invite closer inspection — the longer one looks, the more one sees hidden words, symbols, colors and shapes that aren’t apparent at first glance.
Kathleen’s process involves several steps, the first being a basic watercolor layer, the color of which sets the tone for the rest of the work. On top of the watercolor base, O’Brien adds her own hand drawings, botanicals, gold leaf, paste papers, beeswax and sometimes her own invented script, which has a distinctly Asian feel. On top of these things she will often add her own colored-pencil accents and shadows to show movement or emphasis. This painstaking and intricate technique makes for paintings that have layer after layer of visual interest and meaning.
About the artist
Kathleen O’Brien was born in Japan and lived in Italy and Germany before moving to Amherst, New York to go to Daemen College. Creating art has always been a part of her life, whether it was studying printmaking in Germany, oil-painting in Washington D.C, or craft-making in Boulder, Colorado. She also cites her time studying with Native America Elder Wallace Black Elk as formative in her artistic career. After moving to Kentucky in 1999, O’Brien decided to combine her various skills in drawing, watercolors and botanicals to create collages. Since moving here, she’s created over 1,400 pieces and exhibited all over the country. She describes her own life now as a kind of collage: “I integrate art-making, beekeeping, gardening and gathering botanicals.”
If you go
Lunch with the Arts Featured artist: Kathleen O’Brien
Noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, Community Arts Center
Cost: $5 if you bring your own lunch, $10 if you reserve one; register online by 6 p.m. Monday to reserve a box lunch.
Registration for the DANTASTIC Race is still open! Only 25 teams can participate, so if you haven’t registered yet, now is the time. Sign up at www.communityartscenter.net.
So you know
Auditions for the Danville Children’s Choir are coming up. Choir is open to children in grades 1-12; auditions are held at 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church. First rehearsal is 7-8:15 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Lexington Avenue Baptist Church. For more information, visit www.danvillesings.com.
Mariel Smith is the marketing director for the Community Arts Center.