The Art of Michael O’Kelly Part Two:

His eclectic art/work studio in Ventura is filled with a rich tapestry of different art forms.

by Amy Brown

He is passionate about several important public art projects for which he has been recently commissioned. “I was really pleased when Miriam Schwab wanted me to do her memorial sculpture for Ventura College, which was part of her 13-million-dollar endowment for the college’s Performing Arts center,” he said.  He has since designed the 12’ tall bronze statue of a dancer with a violin in her honor, planned to be unveiled in January. He is also working on a large oil painting and art nouveau installation with alabaster, stone and metal for a local historical building. He says that he is comfortable being versatile, moving from one medium to another. “It’s quite easy. It’s just a matter of problem solving.”

O’Kelly has created many pieces of public art, in addition to his prolific privately commissioned work in Ventura County, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Local public art pieces include a major fountain and mural at Santa Barbara Zoo, the Camarillo Library, Cafe Sauro, and the Watermark, (now Limon y Sol). When asked if creating public art creates additional pressure for him as the artist, versus private commissions, he replied, “Public art is so important, thousands of people see it, but I don’t feel any additional pressure when creating it. I’m pretty confident and know what I can do. I’m just a working artist.” He shared that his friend, the late author Ray Bradbury, rarely wanted to discuss his craft. “If you ever asked Ray about writing, he hated answering. He’d say, ‘You want to write, write—don’t ask me about it. I’ve got nothing to say’. I feel the same way about painting.” O’Kelly is also currently working on a film about Bradbury’s storied life.

When you look around his eclectic art/work studio in Ventura, filled with a rich tapestry of different art forms—both his own and by others—you see styles, eras and mediums juxtaposed beautifully with one another. In the photo, he holds an intricate pen and ink drawing of a stucco Mayan head at the Mexico City Anthropology Museum, part of a series he made for the book, “Encyclopedia Of Ancient Civilizations,” while behind him leers a four sided Mexican dance mask from the early 1900s that represents the coming of Cortez as a wind God, Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl. While he appreciates and collects a wide range of art movements, he reflects that he believes people usually collect art for two reasons: it creates a visceral, immediate response for them, or that people told them it is or might become valuable. “A good painting, you can spend the rest of your life owning and looking at and you’ll always find something new,” said O’Kelly. “The only real criteria for owning art is if there’s enough to keep you interested in it.”

See part 1 in the Nov. 6 Ventura Breeze at

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