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About Colleen O'Rourke

Bead Work, Mixed Media, Collages, and Paintings


Employed with simple tools of the trade, a needle and thread, I take seed beads beyond their traditional role as adornment, and put them in the spotlight as a fine art medium. The beads themselves inspire me. The color palette may be limited, but because the beads are glass, they absorb and reflect light, which creates infinite color possibilities. The process of beading is meditative and intimate which allows me to be very present in my work. I not only use people, thoughts, or moments directly from my life as the narratives in my compositions, I also physically touch each bead that is embroidered onto the canvas. Despite their diminutive size, seed beads can create bold, powerful statements, as well as subtle dreamscapes.


My collages are created from vintage sheet music. My first pile of sheet music was collected from my grandmother’s piano bench. I was initially drawn to the beautiful vintage graphics on the covers, but this collection also held a lot of memories. I remember her piano, I remember her metronome, but I don’t remember my her ever sitting down to play. As a child, I sorted through her sheet music and tried to teach myself how to play the simpler songs. The music dated from her childhood through her death and revealed the history of her passion for piano and love for music. I could tell which pieces were her favorites because the edges were torn, the seams were taped together, and there were notes written above the measures. This sheet music shared with me a memoir of my grandmother that I never had the opportunity to know.


I began to collect more sheet music from other relatives and their relatives. As my stack grew, I noticed the subtle shades in the paper itself. These differing tones arrived after years of use, exposure to sunlight, and exposure to acid from storage. Many pieces were obviously a part of somebody’s everyday life, other pieces were simply a page turned, all the pieces were a part of somebody’s history.

My collages bring these chronicles together. I choose pages based on how the shade will enhance the image, but once I cut, angle, layer, and sew the music together, I catch a lyric come together with another lyric to form poetic verses. I am reclaiming the saga that these pages once experienced and am giving them a new narrative. 


The sewn collages are two dimensional, while the layered collages are created with four to six pieces of stacked glass which create a shadow box effect.


Painting has been a wonderful way for me to express myself. I truly enjoy escaping to my painting studio to explore color and composition.

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