Cara O'Brien

Cara O'Brien

Profile | Statement | Biography


Cara O'Brien • Profile

 

Cara O'Brien

Glassy porcelain, leathery smooth wood, and rough rusted metal - Cara O'Brien brings together the existing characteristics of found objects with the endless malleability of porcelain clay. Attracted to the textures, oxidized colors, and natural lines of wood and metal, she contrasts man-made and naturally occurring elements to showcase the intrinsic beauty of her chosen materials.

Inspired by microscopic designs in nature, O'Brien creates life-like elements in clay.  She emphasizes texture and shape over color, bringing out the essential qualities of her materials and transforming them into pieces bursting with life.  Mushroom and lichen-shaped forms, barnacles and branch-like elements are arranged in linear or circular shapes to suggest something growing on a tree, the bottom of a lake, or on the side of a rock.  Contrasting rough and smooth areas with flat and raised, she gives the materials a chance to “speak” to her as she works, allowing each to determine which works best with a particular piece of wood or porcelain component.

Cara O’Brien graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, MI with a concentration in sculpture, and currently works from her home and studio in Whitehall, MI.


Cara O'Brien • Statement

I am strongly attracted to the organic forms produced through growth, erosion and decay in our surroundings. As an expression of my visual and academic study of these processes, I create sculptures using porcelain, metal and wood. I give my work biomorphic qualities as I explore the ideas of change and new life through death while keeping in mind the nature of my materials.

My work begins with creating organically shaped individually porcelain components. I make many varieties of forms, from tentacle-like to petal-ish, and give them textures that range from smooth to rough, random to patterned. I am constantly searching out drift wood, reclaimed weathered lumber, or found metal scraps to use in my work. From beach flotsam to junkyard finds, I alter discarded or abandoned materials as a counterpoint to the creamy white porcelain components. Drawing on their visually scarred appearances and their mostly unknowable histories, I study the found jetsam and discover what I need to add to in order to make the fragments into something finished and whole. As I bring the various materials, textures and forms together, the process preserves and transforms the found and handmade. I work to create sculpture in which all of the individual parts blend together to make the entire piece purposeful and seamless.

I also create multi piece all porcelain sculptures. Utilizing the beauty of the vitreous clay, I emulate the overall feeling of the living world of corals, mushrooms, lichens, and other colonizing flora and fauna through organic handmade forms. While searching for a place between abstraction and realism, I endeavor to transform inanimate materials into works that suggest life within.


Cara O'Brien • Biography

EDUCATION

1998    
Bachelors of Fine Arts, Majoring in 3D; Minors in Marketing and Art History, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI

1996    
International Art Studies under sculptor Jerome Cox, FS.C., M.F.A., Vicchio, Italy

1994-03 
Mentored instruction under artist and architect Ray Jansma, Fremont, MI

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2016
100x100-100 Sculptors, 100 Sculptures, Ella Sharp Museum, Jackson, MI

sELECTED Works, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

MI Arts: All Michigan All Media Visual Arts Competition, Holland Area Arts Council, Holland, MI

Regional Biennial Juried Sculpture Exhibition, Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, Saginaw, MI

88th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

Slightly Obsessive, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

Everyone in the Pool, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

Collective Alchemy, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

Change of Seasons, Arts Council of White Lake, Whitehall, MI

In Between Here and Gone, Newaygo County Council for the Arts, Fremont, MI

2015
Inspired By, Arts Council of White Lake, Whitehall, MI

ArtPrize, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids, MI

MI Arts: All Michigan All Media Visual Arts Competition, Holland Area Arts Council, Holland, MI

zlightly Obsessive, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

Everyone in the Pool, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

Lookie Here, LaFontsee Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI

2014
ArtPrize, DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids, MI

Hop, Skip, & a Jump, LaFontsee Galleries, Douglas, MI

Slightly Obsessive II, LaFontsee Galleries, Douglas, MI

Festival 2014 Regional Arts Competition, UICA, Grand Rapids, MI

2013   

Art in 8, Arts and Humanities Festival, Muskegon, MI

16th Annual Livonia Exhibition of Fine Arts, Civic Center Library, Livonia, MI

4th Annual Regional Juried Show, South Haven Center for the Arts, South Haven, MI

33rd Annual Juried Fine Arts Exhibition, Crooked Tree Arts Center, Petoskey, MI

Earth and Fire, Newaygo County Council for the Arts, Fremont, MI

Festival 2013 Regional Arts Competition, UICA, Grand Rapids, MI

Featured Artist, Lansing Art Gallery, Lansing, MI

Change of Seasons, White River Gallery, Montague, MI

2012 
  
Featured Artist, Howmet Playhouse, Whitehall, MI

84th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

Tuesday Night Lights, Holland Area Arts Council, Holland, MI

Change of Seasons, White River Gallery, Montague, MI

2011    
Tuesday Nights at Rays, Dogwood Center for the Arts, Fremont, MI

Farm Fresh, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Montague, MI

Annual Instructor Exhibit, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Montague, MI

83rd Regional Exhibition, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

2003-2010  
Annual Instructor Exhibit, 2008-2010, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Montague, MI

79th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

Expressions of White Lake, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Montague, MI

Muskegon Arts and Humanities Festival, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

Featured Artist, White River Gallery, Montague, MI

Change of Seasons, White River Gallery, Montague, MI

And the Winners Are. . ., Newaygo County Council for the Arts, Fremont, MI

HONORS AND AWARDS

2011 
People's Choice Award, Change of Seasons, Arts Council of White Lake, Whitehall, MI

2015
Honorable Mention and Margaret Feldman Kruizenga Memorial Awards, MI Arts: All Michigan All Media Visual Arts Competition, Holland Area Arts Council, Holland, MI

2013
People’s Choice Award, Art in 8, Arts and Humanities Festival, Muskegon, MI

Third Place, 33rd Annual Juried Fine Arts Exhibition, Crooked Tree Arts Center, Petoskey, MI

Second Place, 4th Annual Regional Juried Show, South Haven Center for the Arts, South Haven, MI

LaFontsee Galleries 3-D Award, Festival 2013 Regional Arts Competition, Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, MI

2012
2 Purchase Awards, 84th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

2011
Special Merit Award, Farm Fresh, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Montague, MI

2007
Purchase Award, 79th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

PUBLIC ARTWORK

2016
Community Works, community art project, Cherry Creek Elementary, Lowell, MI

2015
Growing Community, community art project, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore National Parks Service, Empire, MI

2013
Full Circle, community art project, Harbor Hospice, Norton Shores, MI

On the River Archway, community art project, Hesperia Public Schools, Hesperia, MI

2012
Conversation, community art project, Newaygo County Council for the Arts Fremont, MI

2010
Grow Garden Grow, community art project, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, MI

2009
Infant of Prague, Resurrection Cemetery, Grand Rapids, MI

2008
Writer’s Stone, City of Fremont, Fremont, MI

Memorial Garden Cross, First Congregational Church, Fremont, MI

2007
Elements, community art project, White Cloud Middle School, White Cloud, MI

2006
New Worlds Through Words, Grant Area District Library, Grant, MI

2005
Windwave,
Arts Council of White Lake, Whitehall Community Library, Whitehall, MI

Garden of the Imagination, community art project, Fremont Middle School, Fremont, MI

2004
Bear with Fish, created in collaboration with artist, Lori Hough, Nelson Park, Mount Pleasant, MI

2003
Solace Under a Starry Sky, community art project, Grant Middle School, Grant, MI

2001
Little Wheels, Large Books, Great Minds, created in collaboration with artist Ray Jansma, Fremont Area District Library, Fremont, MI

All Sports, community art project, White Cloud Middle School, White Cloud, MI

ARTS-RELATED EXPERIENCE & RESIDENCIES

1999-
current Free Lance Artist, Public and Private Sculptural Commissions, Whitehall, MI

2016
Artist-in-Residence, Cherry Creek Elementary School, Lowell, MI

Artist-in-Residence, Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, Empire, MI

2015
ArtPrize Education Days Instructor, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids, MI

Guest Artist, West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics, Spring Lake, MI

2013
Artist-in-Residence, Patricia St. Clair Elementary School, Hesperia, MI

2011
Instructor, Drop-In Art, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, MI

Guest Artist, Paper Casting Workshop Newaygo County Community Services Art-In, Newaygo, MI

2007-2013
Instructor, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Montague, MI

2006-2013
Instructor, Newaygo County Council for the Arts, Fremont, MI

2008-2009
Instructor, Professional Development Institute, Michigan Art Education Association, Kalamazoo, MI

2006-2007
Artist-In-Residence, White Cloud Middle School, White Cloud, MI

2006
Guest Artist Lecturer, Georgia State College and University, Milledgeville, Georgia

2004
Artist-in-Residence, Fremont Middle School, Fremont, MI

2003-2005
Director, Nuveen Community Center for the Arts, Arts Council of White Lake, Montague, MI

2001-2002
Interim Gallery Director, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI

2002
Artist-in-Residence, Grant Middle School, Grant, MI

Guest Artist, Paper Casting, Fremont Christian School, Fremont, MI

2001
Guest Artist, Molding Making Workshop for Newaygo County Community Services Art-In, Camp Newaygo, Newaygo, MI

Guest Artist, Portraits in 3-D, White Cloud Middle School, White Cloud, MI

Artist-in-Residence, White Cloud Middle School, White Cloud, MI

1999-2000
Program Coordinator, Newaygo County Council for the Arts, Fremont, MI

1997-98, 2001
Art Instructor, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Twin Lake, MI