A conversation on life lately, her collected curiosities, and why we used her “Emerald City” installation for our cover shoot

By Eleanora Morrison | September 2018

 

Tucked away in?a modest,?Victorianesque??castle? on a (Dignowity) Hill?near downtown San Antonio,?famed?artist Kelly O?Connor lives to create?in?her?quirky, curated?chambers.?Fortressed?by an enchanted front yard of Prickly?Pears?and?sparkling?bird?baths,?it is evident that she is the Queen of her creative castle, with each room feeling curiouser and?curiouser the further into her mod rabbit hole you fall.?I?recenty?stepped into?her wonderworld of?bygone whimsy?for afternoon tea to discuss?her?latest works, what?inspires?her iconic style,?and how she pieced together the featured props in this issue?s Carmel Snow cover shoot?

E: What?s in your studio right now?
K:?A lot of what’s in here is?just what is?left over from recent shows.?Although,?I?m?currently?working on a print project that?just launched?at?Fel?z Modern,?which I am extremely excited about. That is what all of these?supplies?on the table are for.??

E: This looks special…what is this drawing??
K: It is a?drawing?by [the late] Linda Pace?of a dream that?she?had about?me?when?I?worked for?her.?She influenced me?profoundly, yet she told me I also influenced her, even though I worked for her. It was such a special?relationship.?Here I am now, twelve years later, in charge of communications for her foundation and pursuing my Executive MBA while we transition into our?new [currently under construction] home,?Ruby City?– a?contemporary art center.?

E: Explain these new pieces you are?working on:?
K:?Normally, I make very?intensively-crafted?pieces that are expensive to collect. They are originals,?and I work on?each one?for dozens of hours.?This project I am?working on?with?Fel?z Modern?is a bit different. It’s a?multiple, the next one?I am?introducing?into the market. These?pieces are?going to be?large?prints on matte paper.

I don?t?ever?want to make posters of my original works because I think it lessens the value of the pieces. I?am?making?three versions of prints, and they are?all?going to have a silver vibe. I?am?strategically placing?a few of these glitter flowers on the prints so they have texture to them,?can be framed dynamically in a shadow box,?and?feel like an original work…but they are sold at?a price point that is accessible to everyone.??

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E: Tell me about the big?umbrellas in your back yard.?
K: Those are sunburst aluminum umbrellas. I remember them from my great ? grandmother’s place. She lived in a retirement trailer park, and I would go and spend my summers with her as a kid. These umbrellas were around the pool. I would sit outside?with her friends playing bingo and shuffleboard?all afternoon in the sun. So many of these resort ? based landscapes that I create?today?are inspired by my childhood vacations.??

My dad instilled a love of vacation in us because his summer trips as a child impacted him so fondly. It wasn?t enough to just go on?a?vacation when we were kids.?He?made sure we studied the places we were visiting?well in advance,?and that we had plenty of memorabilia to bring home?with us?once?we?had been?there. We would look forward to that vacation all year.?

He would take us on?road trips in the summer to so many of these iconic American destinations?that were idyllic to him as a boy, but?by the time I was?visiting?them as a young girl, they were no longer these?shiny,?utopic places my?dad?once?remembered. They were run down?and worn.?That undercurrent of?mis-represented American?Utopia is a theme that?often?comes out in my work.

E: Why are you so inspired by?the?Wizard of Oz?
K: Well, to start, my grandmother?s name?was?Dorothy?and?my Aunt?s name is Glenda.?Even though I didn?t spend much time with them growing up, my obsession with the Wizard of Oz is oddly tied to this family history. They lived near Odessa, which is a?bit of?a fantastical?Oz-ian?-esque?place because of the oil underground, sort of like Kansas.??

E: Tell me about?what?you pulled from your body of work?to prop style?our cover shoot.?
K: All of the props?we used in our?cover?shoot were?either pieces of my art, or?old beauty products?that I have collected over time that were part of?a?recent installation in Houston. Since?ELEANORA?Magazine is about women,?and?my artwork is very feminine?(often incorporating?vintage?products and equipment?into works), I had a feeling it would all just fit perfectly.??

The?columns?that?we?used are pieces?I?fabricated from scratch?for a recent installation.?They were supposed to be reminiscent of an??Emerald?City.??The hexagonal crystal totems were?intended to give the?viewer the?idea of?being in?Oz. The big photograph piece we used in the shoot?that I sat in front of in sunglasses?was?something I re-created?from an original Richard Avedon photograph?(who Rahm Carrington was portraying on shoot day). I had done pieces in the past with sunglasses?on the vintage models, but this one is iconic. It?is?a crowd favorite for sure.?

I identified with the substance in our Carmel Snow cover story very early in our collaborative process, and it resonated with me, because the?reason I collect a lot of these curious vintage artifacts?is to be reminded?of this strange time when?women were pressured into being very doll-like and non-substantive.??Every day?as I work to balance the pillars of my life that give me purpose, I am grateful to the women of the past who fought for those rights we enjoy today, in which ever field it was that they pioneered.??

Kelly?s Quirky?Collectibles😕
An old drafting table from the original Tobin?offices that she repurposed into a kitchen island.?
Tinkered assemblages by the late artist?Tony Feher??
Blue floor tiles throughout the kitchen,?the?same aqua shade?of a swimming pool.?An Aires?and former?competitive swimmer, pool water has always calmed her.?
Vintage kitchen appliances
Her late?grandmother Nonna?s bench.?She asked for it when she died, because of her happy,?vivid memories of sitting on it growing up.?It?is now the vanity seat in her master bath.?
Her late?grandmother Dorothy?s emerald green glass lamp.?She acquired it when she died, because she wanted something to remember her by. It is now on the table filled with mementos in her entryway.?

Connect with Kelly O’Connor at?Kelly O’Connor Art and at Ruby City, and follow her on Instagram?@kellyoconnor_art?and?@rubycity.
Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.

Eleanora Morrison

Eleanora Morrison

Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief and Creative Director of ELEANORA Magazine, Morrison is the Founder and CEO of S.H.E Media. A writer, digital content creator and entrepreneur born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Morrison is thrilled to be showcasing so many creative and editorial talents in her Carmel Snow-inspired inaugural September Issue. Read more about Morrison and who inspired the magazine?s true namesake in her first ever?Editor?s Letter. Follow her creative curiosities, mindful musings and day-to-day life at?EleanoraMorrison.com, and connect with her on social media?@eleanoramorrison.