Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor‘s anthropomorphic creatures congregate and come to life in her solo exhibit at the David Salow Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. The seven-foot tall beasts known as No Names are on display through February 28th. Overall, O’Connor’s larger than life characters have temperaments like mischievous house pets, each with a unique and memorable personality.
The artist builds her sculptures by attaching well-worn scraps from upholstery, clothing, and bedding to lumber armatures. The conglomerate of domestic fabrics lends her otherwise menacing creatures an air of comfortable familiarity. Standing beneath them, we’re stimulated by an array of textures that seems barely contained by the twine, yarn, and quilting pins that hold them together.
O’Connor manipulates textiles to give her sculptures the same painterly quality existing in her earlier two-dimensional work. Paint drips translate into segments of unraveling yarn or dangling fringes. When she traces vacant eye cavities and grimacing mouths with layers of fabric it’s as if she is drawing, using seams instead of charcoal. Unlike the her drawings, the sculptures feature decorative pattern. Color is contained in large and small patches like chromatic shapes in a French Nabi painting.
O’Connor stuffs her pieces with materials that would normally end up in a land-fill: worn-out carpet padding, cut-up mattress pads, and used upholstery. Some materials were collected from thrift stores while the members of the artist’s community donated others. The mishmash assembly is more coordinated than first meets the eye. Simply look at the fashion statement made by a tarp and a moving blanket on No-Name (moving blanket head), a particularly impish member of the No Names who sports a hooded cape ensemble that matches her audacious stance.
Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor’s work is represented in public and private collections across California and parts of the Midwest. During her studies at the University of California, Davis, where she received her MFA in 2005, O’Connor received five different fellowships and grants. She was also the recipient of the notable Joan Mitchell Foundation Master of Fine Arts Fellowhip. She has twice been invited to work as an artist-in-residence at the Kohler Company’s Arts/Industry Program in Kohler, Wisconsin. Currently, O’Connor fills an academic appointment at Sierra College in Rocklin, CA.