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You Made What?! An Interview with Mixed-media Artists Opie and Linda O'Brien

18 Jan 2009

With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, are you beginning to fret over what to get your loved one? Forget about a sappy Hallmark card, an overpriced bouquet of roses, or a stale box of chocolates. Take a lesson from soul mates Linda and Opie O’Brien, who after more than 20 years of marriage know that the key ingredient to any lasting relationship––simply put––is humor.

Case in point:
Blog exlax collage

What inspired you both to make such a piece of art? Was one of you feeling a little...shall we say... bloated, and the conversation went from there?

Actually we were feeling a bit drained. In December we finished the manuscript for our new book and we were very much in need of a bit of silly fun. Since we've worked with organic, recycled, and found materials since 1994, we've collected about 2000 tins that we use in our work and many of the classes we teach, so we have a lot to draw from.

The vintage Ex-Lax tin was perfect, as we often take a whimsical approach with our pieces. This piece actually has a funny, albeit embarrassing story, because up to the point that I scanned it into the computer, we both misread the word movement for moment and when we looked at the screen it said Ex-Lax ... never a dull movement, Opie turned to me and said, "Does that say movement?" and I said, "Yes, I think it does," and he said, "But didn't it say moment," and I said, "I thought it did, but computer screens don't lie." We ran to get the piece, re-read it, and we laughed until we cried, since movement really was so much more appropriate to the tone of the piece. Now there's your happy little accident!

Where are you going to put it? In the bathroom, perhaps?
It's funny you should ask, as that was Opie's first choice, but we started a wall of metal collages that go down one side of our entire hallway and there was the perfect place for it, so there it hangs for now until we decide which will become class samples, which go on and/or reserved for vendors’ night at art retreats.

What type of art is the most gratifying for you both to make?
Opie and I have been living and working together 24/7 since the 80's. Fortunately we are very like-minded, but a sense of humor is paramount to the success of a relationship of this type and humor often transfers into much of our work. Our Dada Dolls for our latest book are a complete hoot and these new metal collages seem to be taking that direction as well. But we also love creating books, assemblage, jewelry, and our original music, and find all of these mediums equally gratifying. The fact that we can do this together is the most satisfying part of it all.

Look for more artwork from Linda and Opie in upcoming issues of Cloth Paper Scissors. To learn more about them and their newest book Who’s Your Dada out next fall, visit their website at

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Sylvia wrote
on 18 Jan 2009 2:52 PM
This piece of art is so funny! I didn't know about these two and will be on the lookout for their art.
Kim wrote
on 18 Jan 2009 7:05 PM
I love this. What a fun and creative piece of art. :)
Jamie Fingal wrote
on 18 Jan 2009 7:41 PM
I love their humor...a bit like mine. Talk about a play on words! Simply divine. What a great piece to hang in a bathroom.
Mary Ann Van Soest wrote
on 18 Jan 2009 10:21 PM
OPie and Linda are cool. Just a comment on the new 300 series I got in the mail last week. I am finding the topics are just what I needed. The segments on coloring fabric and batting with dye are just what I need to attack the bolts of PFD fabric and the roll of batting I bought. Now I have a better understanding on how to use the materials. I will be experimenting all week on just that one show. Hey people get your copy now the stuff in it is Great!!!!
Pokey wrote
on 19 Jan 2009 9:21 AM
Mary Ann, What a nice way to start my work week! Thank you for letting me know. I will pass along to Diane Giancola, the R.I.T. people, and Judy Perez (artist for some of those finished quilts). Have fun! Best, Pokey
ginnycartersmallenburg wrote
on 19 Jan 2009 10:28 AM
I love Linda and Opie's artwork. They are a unique couple and fun to be around. Good interview!
monica magness wrote
on 21 Jan 2009 10:48 AM
this is spectacular! I also read "moment." I'll certainly be checking out their new art in your mag- I'm ADDICTED to humor and finding its place in art. We all need to laugh MORE! ;)