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Molly O'Brien

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St. Louis

Lives in
Boulder Colorado

University of Colorado College of Arts and Media, 2011, BA Fine Arts Painting Emphasis

modern, mixed-media, abstract, painting, collage, expressionism, contemporary


By Cullen Siewert

Molly O’Brien’s abstract works of art continue to push the boundaries as to what a painting can be. After examining several of her works it became clear that her mastery and skills were completely focused around experimenting; which brings forth an element of informal quality to her work. Working with raw canvas would seem to be a step in the opposite direction of masterful qualities; however, a great deal of sophistication is understood and utilized in her preparation and approach.

With most of the painting surface being raw canvas, O’Brien’s use of gesso in certain areas works well to create a contrast in both texture and saturation as she layers on more paint. In other experiments she has used different substances to achieve a stained effect on the raw canvas; for example, coffee was used on one of her previous works, which provided her with an earthly, and somewhat aged feel for the undertones of her painting. Once the canvas has been prepared to her liking, O’Brien then focuses her attention mainly upon the contrasts of temperature, saturation and texture.

Cool blues and greens fill up her backgrounds in a very loose and chaotic manner, balancing well with the warm, ordered, child-like forms that push to the surface of her paintings. The use of paint straight out of the tube provides O’Brien with hues at the peak of their saturation, which really sets the tone for her paintings. Contrast of texture can be found in everything but the paint itself. Outside sources of texture, or collage items, are common in her works; items such as waxed paper and glass shards are present in her works. O’Brien’s drive to experiment and invent is very evident in her uses of texture; by ripping through a canvas and placing collage elements behind it, she is attempting to push the space of the painting in a very literal way. In other works, she has experimented with covering over a very worn and wrinkled painted canvas with another canvas, allowing the older canvas to show through in parts, again pushing the space of the painting.

O’Brien’s works successfully challenge the viewer to find the order in their world of chaos; by working in a larger scale, her paintings successfully swallow the viewer and make them a part of the composition. Once inside, the viewer is able to relate to her idea of bringing order to chaos, allowing for a sense of joy to be felt and perceived. Her outside of the box way of thinking and experimenting reflect O’Brien’s drive to be an inventor and to always be creating something new. These traits can historically be traced to the time when surrealism and abstract expressionism were nearly merged.



Born and raised in the Midwestern city of St. Louis, Molly O’Brien began studying fine art at St. Louis University and Southern Illinois University. While attending SIU, she worked at the University Museums Office as Assistant to the Registrar, closely maintaining the University’s vast art collection. After a short period working in St. Louis for an art importer and as an art gallery manager, her political interests led her to working as a photographer for the Illinois House of Representatives in Springfield, Illinois. Happy to escape the Midwest she moved to the mountains of Colorado in 1992. In Colorado, she attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. The remainder of her studies evolved to a focus on painting at the University of Colorado Denver.

Artist Statement

Molly O’Brien is an emerging abstract painter influenced by the landscape of urban and rural Colorado. Born and raised in St. Louis Missouri, she has lived in Colorado for 19 years. Her medium is acrylic and mixed media often incorporating collage or collage made from her own works on canvas and paper that are integrated back into a painting on canvas. Texture and layering to a sculptural effect are prominent. The works are not carefully planned in advance. Her pieces evolve from within during the process, creating a visual language open to each viewer’s interpretation and experience. Each stroke of paint has an energy connected to that idea.




June 2011 Best of Show Annual Regional Juried Show, for artists in WY, NE, KS, UT and CO, The Colorado Coalition of Artists, Fort Collins, CO juror George Coll






June 2012 The Paintings of Molly O'Brien The City of Lafayette, CO Lafayette Public Library


July 2012 The Paintings of Molly O'Brien The City of Lafayette, CO City Hall






May 2011 Native Language, Buxiejo Gallery, Santa Fe Arts District, Denver, CO


Aug-Nov 2012 The Paintings of Molly O’Brien, The Center for Faculty Development, University of Colorado Denver






October 2012 The Plastic Experience, Next Gallery, Highlands Arts District, Denver, CO


June 2012 Open Walls, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO


May 2012 Mindpool Juried Show, Next Gallery, Highlands Arts District, Denver, CO juror Kara Duncan


November 2011 University of Colorado Denver Juried Show, Marriott Courtyard Gallery, Denver, CO


May 2011 Grand Opening, Buxiejo Gallery, Santa Fe Arts District, Denver, CO


March 2011 University of Colorado Denver Juried Show, Emmanuel Gallery, Denver, CO


November 2010 University of Colorado Denver Juried Show Marriott Courtyard Gallery, Denver, CO






Nov 2011 & 2012 Juror for the Jefferson County District Wide Annual Student Art Competition Red Rocks Community College, Lakewood, CO


Recent Exhibits

Molly O'Brien participated in these exhibits:

Aug, 2012 The Paintings of Molly O'Brien
University of Colorado Denver Center for Faculty Development
Jul, 2012 Molly O'Brien
City of Lafayette CO City Hall
Jun, 2012 Molly O'Brien
City of Lafayette CO Public Library
May, 2012 Mindpool
NEXT Gallery
Jun, 2011 Regional Juried Exhibition
The Colorado Coalition of Artists Fort Collins
May, 2011 Native Language
Buxiejo Gallery Santa Fe Arts District Denver
Click here to see all exhibits for Molly O'Brien
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