Kelly O was born and raised in LA's South bay. She spent a majority of her childhood in her father’s classroom and in her parents’ studio (both were artists, her father taught sculpture for over 36 years.)
After years of academic struggle, she found that she is dyslexic, also known as a visual experiential. She learns by sight and experience, and therefore communicates best with pictures and objects in a three dimensional way.
Kelly took drawing classes in high school at Pasadena Art Center and after graduation registered at the local community college in just about every art class that was offered. She focused on jewelry making and metal smithing, but still hadn't found her language in materials. She was told of a mentorship program in Santa Monica called Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture and applied immediately.
She studied there for two years with many great artists; George Herms, Laddie John Dill, Jill Geigrich, Allison Saar, Frank Romero, Anne Troutman, Deborah Sussman and others. Yet it was while working under the influence of George Herms, when she found an instant passion for the naturally corroded and decayed, and began to explore the idea of bringing life into the discarded. She graduated in 1997.
Shortly after finishing her first body of work, she became pregnant with her first of two children. Not having the freedom of escaping to her studio meant bringing the studio to her. She started the collage series on small pieces of wood and tin. These also have elements of found objects and incorporate her painting skills as well. Her latest pieces go back to the studio work, larger assemblage and her passion for "piecing, connecting, and concocting".