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Confessions of an Artist Groupie

April 12, 2013

Garden for Summer Tanager kathleen obrien I joined the Kathleen O’Brien fan-club this summer the moment her Garden for Summer Tanager (right) stopped me in my tracks with it intriguing and eye-catching use of watercolors, hand-drawings, and botanicals. This was just one work in Gardenshapes, the exhibit on display at the Arts Center that month. For weeks I would peer deeply into her pieces, discovering ever more layers of meaning and color, seeing different shapes, and understanding more of her artistic vision. It was an intoxicating and addictive experience, and I’ve been a devoted Kathleen O’Brien groupie ever since.

My groupie-senses got tingling when I got word that Kathleen (who, by the way, is the Kentucky Arts Council’s featured artist this month!) has a new exhibit at the MS Rezny Gallery in Lexington through April called Realms of Wonder. She explained to me that the collection evolved out of what began as abstract landscapes. The more she worked on them the more she felt she was actually portraying realms and imaginary worlds. She asked me, “We go to all different places in physical reality, but where do we go when we want to be centered and at peace with ourselves?” The answer: Realms of Wonder!

By the Beautiful Sea Novia ScotiaThe collection on display has over 45 pieces, ranging from very recent to decades old. The pieces along the walls overflow with swirling shapes, detailed maps and printed objects, colorful hand-drawn birds, and Kathleen’s uniquely-tempered color palette, which ranges from atmospheric blues to rich sunset oranges and tropical greens.

One of the centerpieces of the exhibit is called the “Traveling Shrine for World Appreciation,” an installation composed of three boxes, all open at the top. The interiors of the boxes are mirrored on all sides, creating a dazzlingly disorienting space for miniature installations, each of which is devoted to one of the three basic shapes: circle, triangle, and square. Connected to each shape is a corresponding earth element.

3 Worlds This kind of layered meaning and symbol is something I’ve come to love and expect from Kathleen’s work, and is much of what keeps me coming back to the same pieces over and over again. Every single color choice, brush-stroke, botanical, found object, and shape is replete with many-tiered significance, making each piece a highly

Kathleen Obrien

complex web of interconnected meanings. Ask her about any piece and she can begin to unravel its many threads, teasing out the various geometrical, astrological, mathematical, elemental, spiritual, and visual components. In other words, if you’ve ever wanted to get lost in a piece of artwork, seeing Realms of Wonder is the way to do it!

Want to be a Kathleen O’Brien groupie? Check out her website and her blog!