Born in a rice paddy.

Growed in Texas.

Harvesting art by a Yankee moon.

       I first started thinking about storytelling and its rippling impact on our selves when I was young, watching my mother develop film in her darkroom.  Now, remembering those primordial impressions, I am also an artist whose priority is to be a storyteller. My studio practice uses narrative art forms of woodblock printing, shadow puppetry, animation, and crankie theater to perform scenes within a personal mythology.  As a whole my imagery is fluid and migrates with the events in my life. Metamorphosis and liminality are two main themes, conversant with other thoughts on how we view ourselves as both agents and products of our environments.  But on an intimate scale, these moving parts and shadow stricken stages that I make are vehicles to assert my own narratives. Their final performance is a passage, and in this way I find them extended from the sculptural, printmaking, or painting techniques that began them.  Currently I am working on adapting and honoring the tradition of shadow puppetry as a core element in my art.  I am working to carve out a presence in performing and teaching my work as well as to be an available instrument of narration for others seeking their own voice.  My ongoing explorations in shadow puppetry, cut paper, and animation looks forward to collaborating with musicians, dancers, and singers.

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       I could have sprouted out of the ground from Southern China — that’s about all that anyone knows before I was adopted from Jiujiang and raised in the prairie oasis of Dallas, TX. As the daughter of a film photographer, I sympathized early with the need to frame the world in a soft and sinister Noir.  My first flirtations with art were through printmaking and stop-motion animation.  An introduction to woodcut and intaglio in high school led me to pursue a lithography-and-woodcut-heavy printmaking major at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  While still in school the most impactful experience was in earning a travel scholarship which I used to study folk art and puppetry across Europe and the United Kingdom.  After graduating from PAFA’ s Certificate Program, I took an additional year to complete my BFA at the University of Pennsylvania where I continued to absorb conversations around folklore, anthropology, and Earth science.  Seeking the time and community to explore these topics further for my art, I have since had the pleasure of being a 2018 Bread and Puppet Apprentice, and a 2019 artist in residence at Officina Stamperia del Notaio’s studio and printshop in Tusa, Sicily.

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she/they

Me (1st picture) grinning like a fool after making it to Sicily for an artist residency in 2019, and me (above picture) grinning like a fool at my first stilt walking workshop at Bread & Puppet Theater.

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© maisie o'brien 2020