Kelly O’Brien

Kelly O’Brien is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Sculptural Practices at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, WI, and is an MFA Mentor at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) in MN. O’Brien has her MFA in Sculpture from Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA as well as a BFA in sculpture, BFA painting and BA in philosophy from Buffalo State College, NY.
Recent accomplishments include a 2015 McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship, nomination for a Joan Mitchell award, a solo show review in ARTFORUM.com, and a feature in New American Paintings, Midwest. Solo shows include SooVAC in Minneapolis, Kibbee Gallery in Atlanta, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT and The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI.
Commissions include a mixed media installation at the Minneapolis Institute of Art(Mia), Minneapolis, MN, an educational installation for The Alliance Theater at the Woodruff Art Center, Atlanta, and a stage Installation for TEDxTalk, at TEDxPeachtree.
Upcoming solo exhibitions will be hosted at Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN in October 2019, and The White Page, Minneapolis, MN in April 2020.
I find value in disregarded cultural trash. Our decompression tendencies expose our guilty pleasures. We choose to disengage, and the distraction is a privilege. Can worth be reinstated to this slacker behavior if examined against art history?
Through satirical humor, I hope to suggest a critique of our learned art world, challenging obvious assumptions we routinely accept and enact. Stereotypes and generalizations of hierarchical materials visually wrestle for the spotlight. Expectations of what is considered historically or culturally valuable are exaggerated for these compositional battles. With heroic art practices such as oil painting and the structural trust gained through my sculptural forms, I defend the integrity of conceptual art.
This contemporary issue is reflected in an art historical context in an article written by Emma Brockes about minimalist Carl Andres. They state, “We live in a linguistic culture and everything has to be turned into language. People don’t understand anything until you’ve explained it.” This is a form of visual obtuseness that comes from being raised on television – “which absolutely deadens the imagination and deadens the senses. You just sit there with your mouth open.”

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