We’re pleased to announce Dorothy O’Connor as a returning Illumine artist! Read her interview below as she talks about her work as and artist and the inspiration she’s drawn from living and working near Oakland.
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What are some of your biggest influences as an artist?
I feel like nearly everything (stories, books, TV, movies, all artistic mediums and forms, other artists, and colors, and shapes, etc.) influences my practice as an artist. The most essential piece of my creative process, though, which I also consider the most influential, are my long daily walks. This practice calms my mind and gives me time to process, imagine and concept. Observing wild things (plants, trees, animals, insects, etc.) while I am walking is also an integral part of my creative process. One of my favorite things about living (and growing up) in Atlanta has always been the little pockets of wildness in and around the city. They keep me feeling connected and there are an endless array of growing things and critters to observe that I find fascinating. The more difficult piece of this connection is witnessing the loss of natural environments and habitats in Atlanta (and the world)— especially over the last 5 years or so. This change in my landscape (and the global landscape) has really influenced and shaped my concepts and concerns as an artist as well.
Can you talk a little bit about what inspired your proposed installation for this year? And in what ways do you see your piece speaking to this year’s Illumine theme: trees?
Sitting right in the middle of so much change and development, Oakland is a natural respite— one of the little pockets of wildness inv Atlanta that I am so drawn to. The variety of flora and fauna found in its walls is always such a beautiful and welcome surprise. The constantly growing, changing, transforming environment within also feels symbolic for the changes and growth the cemetery itself has experienced through inspecting its own history and growing from realization, accountability and inclusion. No two walks at Oakland are ever the same. The trees are a huge part of the specialness of the cemetery. They are the living witnesses of so much of its history, and by providing homes for so many species, they are also an essential component in drawing the variety of wildlife found in the cemetery. I am always blown away by the bird species I observe while at Oakland as well. My project, a venture of wood veneer Phoenix illuminated from within, was inspired by all of these things and is an attempt to pay homage to the wildness, the trees and the transformation. I have modeled the flock of phoenix after the variety of hawks I have seen on my walks there. I am also making each bird from several different types of wood veneer as an appreciation for, and a symbol of, the incredible variety of trees in Oakland Cemetery.
What can viewers expect when visiting, observing, and interacting with your piece?
An intricately detailed flock of wood veneer phoenix. The design on each bird pays homage to the trees with a contrasting branch pattern under each bird’s wings and tails. My hope is that they will be beautiful to encounter during the day and then transform entirely, once night falls in the cemetery, into bright beings glowing with light.