Kelly O’Connor


Wonder, 2011, collage of found paper and images, 18 x 24 in

Crystal Pool, 2011, collage of found paper and images, 42 x 27 in

Woman Times Seven, collage of found paper and images

Portrait of the Artist’s Bedroom as a Child, 2011, collage of found paper and images, 60 x 40 in

Pure Imagination, collage of found paper and images

Small World, 2011, collage of found paper and images, 26 x 41 in

Valley of the Dolls Study #3, collage of found images and paper

My Secret Garden, collage of found images and paper

Artist Statement

My work is derived from a combination of memory, fantasy and fiction, often drawing from Western folklore through the use of iconic characters. I am particularly interested in the duality of characters that represent American idealism, yet were often tragic figures in their actual lives. Much of my work is about exposing the reality behind these public façades.

Judy Garland is a reoccurring heroine in my collages. Her classic film, The Wizard of Oz, is full of magic and pure artificial joy; yet Garland’s real life was quite tragic. For me she represents a loss of innocence. Garland and many of the female characters in my work have a look of bliss or artificial happiness, while many of the male characters represent the ominous “man behind the curtain” or the creators of the stories. These characters are mythological to me and make up much of my subconscious.

I strive to create scenes through which the viewer can experience the influence or spell that timeless narratives can cast over our lives. These stories contain so many archetypes and subliminal messages which provide an endless source of inspiration. Often, I combine several fairy tales to give an overall sense of these stories, staging familiar characters in menacing landscapes. By appropriating idealized American scenes, such as Disneyland and Yellowstone National Park, and creating a non-linear narrative, I intentionally leave the situation ambiguous in order for the viewer to relate their own experiences to the suggested scenarios. The juxtaposition of contemporary cultural views–exhibited through familiar subjects–with an idealized American society creates a Post-Utopia.

Playing with color is central to my process. I create candy-colored surfaces that are so sweet it’s sick, and incorporate colors sampled from vintage record covers. The contrast of sparkling rays and neon colors against weathered, dull tones acts as a metaphor for the duality within the characters. In order to create large-scale work, I enlarge images from their original source. The appropriated images are drawn from film and amusement memorabilia, primarily from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I like this time period because the line quality of the drawings is minimal and the subjects are rich with American idealism.

Kelly O’Connor’s Website

Kelly O’Connor at David Shelton Gallery