Michael Kenneth O’Brien, 67, lives with his wife Paula in a residential area of Romney. He maintains a working home studio there.
This past October (2018), a collection of O’Brien’s paintings and sculptures were represented in a month-long exhibition at the C. William Gilchrist Museum of the Arts in Cumberland, Md.
In 2015, his painting, “Along The Electric Fence Line,” was represented at the 16th Annual Will’s Creek Exhibition — a national juried exhibition of contemporary artwork featuring established and emerging artists from across the United States — at the Saville Gallery in Cumberland.
A six-week 2009-10 solo exhibition, “Found Along The Way,” featured over 40 of O’Brien’s paintings, drawings and sculptures at The Bottling Works in Romney.
He was one of the original Hampshire County artists in 2008 organizing and participating in the Hampshire Highlands Studio Tour. The tour became a seasonal event for a number of years.
For nearly two decades, O’Brien’s 2D explorations have focused on what would best be described as collage painting.
“Back in 2001, I spent a day soaking in a comprehensive exhibition of abstract artist Clyfford Still (1904-1980) at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. I was taken by the immense size of Still’s work. But I have limited space in my studio at home. “ O’Brien says. “So, I got the idea to use rolls of butcher paper, tack up 6 to 8 foot lengths, paint on them to experience the physicality of grander brush strokes. Once reaching a basic point of a complete work, tearing the paper and apply it to a back painting on canvass or board and melding the two compositions.”
The work takes off from there with interplays of brushwork and torn paper. The paintings often reflect the 3D stained glass/copper work he’s been pursuing since the late 1980s.
“In thinking about the deeper ‘drive’ at work are connections with the natural world from the surface to the core — standing on the ground and reaching to the expansive cosmology of existence,” O’Brien says. “Psychological, comical, subconscious, super consciousness. Rocks, trees, rivers, sky. Lost structures, spare parts. All together see what it makes — take the journey flowing down a new path walked many times.”
O’Brien was born in Los Angeles, California and has lived in Hampshire County since 1990. He spent 25 years working locally as a newspaper reporter.