"Mira O’Brien—Point of View"
by Susanna Newbury

There is a photograph pinned to the wall of Mira O’Brien’s studio. The light in this photograph is beautifully, bluely brittle among the shards of wired glass that sit like graves in the furrowed earth. It is light that settles cautiously on each edge, warmly into the brick of the office park in the background, blankly jade in those buildings’ ribbon windows. It is light whose presence is registered, not only in the hard lines of the real, but, better, in the eerie shadows of painted boughs playing on the surface of the fragments. Boughs Mira painted on the glass before she planted them back into the ground, portable boughs whose stories are retold in light and photographic episodes as they skip from this vacant lot, to that concrete wharf, to the further distant median strip of a crackled asphalt road, to her studio, to a yet-unsure future. A genealogy of accretion, illumination, rupture—context.

Mira’s work is archaeology. An archaeology of site, of course, since she has been working over the past two years with the decommissioned ruins of ports, and parking lots, and factories, and the fallow ground of coastal Connecticut. Places that seem to belong to a different era, a smaller one, laid bare by renewal and exodus. But more than an archeology of site, Mira’s work is an archeology of temporal frameworks, a continual process of discovering, situating, and representing the beating resonance of experience once enunciated, now left to collect, to drift.

Pieces like her shattered laminate-glass floor, like her quietly monumental staircase, are just disorientingly enough engaged with the decorative to effect a sense of wonderment and disruption. They are not taciturn objects—they bear the history of their allure, the deep evocation of materiality that impelled them into attention. Each element of her work—whether transient shards huddling in derelict sites, or the unlikely entropic accumulation carpeting images of nude winter branches—has the potential to carry the symbolic weight of its dislocation. How does the old wire glass in a barren lot inform us? How is the architecture of memory, of presence, of imprint built? It seems like the questions posed by Mira’s work find respite in the small, suspended moments of wonder between visceral remembrance and imagined worlds, in the intimate process of discovery, of making your own way.

Mira recuperates these situations deftly, coaxing multiple subjectivities from the fond placement of the found and the manipulated. Her materials hum to external rhythms of use and disregard; yet with the generous results of her wandering, her locating, her unearthing, Mira presents us with open works, exquisite instances of encounter, of the genesis of a new perception of the everyday. For they are odd, these recombinant landscapes, these mashups of postindustry. In real life—on the stairs behind Dunkin’ Donuts, on the old piers along Long Wharf Drive—they are trashed and forlorn. But in Mira’s work, such landscapes have been emancipated from programmatic reception. They have been recontextualized, and, in so being, reborn.

"Rising into Ruin"
New Haven, CT, 2008