Kathryn O’Halloran

Electric Longings

January 25 - March 11, 2017

Artist Reception Saturday, January 28th 2-5pm

Harmony Murphy Gallery is pleased to present Electric Longings, an exhibition of new work by Los Angeles-based artist Kathyrn O’Halloran. The show brings together a series of sculptures assembled from culturally situated materials such as ikea furniture, a childhood bed tent, utility rope, flashlights, coat hangers and birthday candles, amongst others. Nostalgic relics from her middle class american upbringing, O’Halloran has re-appropriated these objects to become beacons of self-sufficiency, comfort, and fortitude. She explains, “I use materials that change as markers of time. Unsealed metals that will tarnish, live plants that will grow, bloom, and eventually die. Candles that burn down. These things do not mark time in terms of minutes or hours. Rather, they mark time in terms of changing states of being.”

Included in the exhibition is My childhood bed tent (a hand-me-down from my brother), 2017, the artist’s former tent that has been thoroughly leafed on the inside in variegated gold. Once the artist began sleeping under the protection of this new shelter, nighttime - which had seemed terrifying in its darkness and loneliness - was now a time of freedom and imagination. The insertion of gold conjures the generative aspects of reflective surfaces and the metallic materials often used in emergencies situations. The mirror-like quality helps reflect light, attracting attention, as well as collect and hold heat. Here, the bodily incalescence of the tent’s inhabitant is returned by the precious metal. Warmed by the momentum originating from one’s own body heat, she explores the notion of self saving self. For O’Halloran this a concept rooted in a feminist approach to self-reliance and individual empowerment. She recalls the poet and activist Audre Lorde who once wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” 

The theme of self-activated protection is also found in such works as Headware for Day, Headware for Night, and Headware for Clean Air (2017). In this series of sculptures, a trio of mannequin heads are outfitted in protective gear devised as garments that enable the wearer to reveal as much or as little of themselves as they desire. She ruminates on the dichotomy of exposure and secrecy, fullness and emptiness. O’Halloran reminds us, through works such as Sound Bowls, 2017, that what can appear at first glance to be devoid of substance can instead be inhabited by a natural essence. These ceramic and aluminum vessels have been broken and re-cast as bells to create sound or reconstituted as air-filled containers. The ability to identify absence as presence is a key factor in nurture and optimism; finding strength in re-assembly and tangibility in constants such as light or sound. Electric longing purports that preserving memory and experience is an aspect of self-care and that the props that dressed our personal histories have enormous influence over our future feelings of comfort and safety.