Visual Arts

Flower Power Reigns Supreme at David Shelton Gallery in Houston

The ‘60s are back, and not just because all seven seasons of Mad Men are available for binge watching on Netflix. San Antonio artist Kelly O’Conner, known for her candy-colored collages that incorporate Disneyland, mid-century advertising images and the race for space, is back for her third solo exhibition at David Shelton Gallery.

In “Hypnotic Void,” we see the return of her trademark hex shapes, stalactites and stalagmites that form backgrounds and frames for her multilayered collages, as well as the sparkling rays and starbursts so familiar in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Some of her works incorporate a generous dose of gerbera daisies – almost as if O’Connor embarked on a frenzied cutting session with her Cricut and just couldn’t stop – but the results are quite lovely, especially when forming a floral hammock for her aerosol-can-armed model in Spray. Printed on archival paper, the 46-inch by 72-inch piece incorporates a generous amount of negative space, judiciously placing the scrapbook paper, vintage record cover paper and wool felt daisies in such a way as to suggest that the model is spraying her support into place. No Man’s Land No. 1 is a smaller version of the lazy-summer-day composition.

There are nine other portraits of models with daisies in their hair, on their faces or both – as if their flower-topped swimmer’s caps had come alive – with subtle nods to advertisements for cosmetics or a healthy glass of milk. Look closely and see Mia Farrow, the original earth mother, in No Man’s Land No. 8.

There are a few pieces that begin with magazine covers: Fractured Self, where the woman’s face is replaced by colored hexes, and First Women’s Magazine, with the pink-frocked heroine posing proudly in front of the Magic Kingdom castle.
Her remaining collages incorporate heavy layers of cutouts and found images on top of vintage scenes. In Died to Match, Judy Garland’s Dorothy is surrounded by a tornado of not-so-subliminal images: The Princess and the Pea and her beds, Tinker Bell, a slide projector, Liberace, stilt walkers, a layer cake and – to keep everything spic and span – an avocado-green washing machine, Ajax and Joy.

Fond childhood memories of amusement parks are evoked in both Insured, with the happy family in the Skyway cable cars, and Calcified Curtain, a blue-sky scene from the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride at Disneyland Park. O’Connor’s trademark starbursts take center stage in Free Ride (Small World), emulating the park’s famous fireworks by dominating the canvas with her exploding rays.

Other works on display include Frozen (Niagara Falls), with a lone Dorothy; Hierapolis, with hexes replacing the protruding ledges; and a floating gingerbread house and colorful hex-balloon sky in Jawbreaker.

In the back room is a collage from 2012’s “The Rise and Fall” exhibit, the left panel of the diptych also titled The Rise and Fall. With a generous dose of stalactites against the dark black of space, Shirley Temple as housewife stands amid stacks of televisions, vacuum-cleaner-toting friends, cosmetics galore and a beaming space orb.

“Hypnotic” Void continues through May 28 at David Shelton Gallery, 4411 Montrose, open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., 713-393-7319, Free.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney