“O’Dell’s glass pieces memorialize nature’s lost glories, endeavor to forestall future destruction, and contemplate the universal life cycle of life, death, and renewal.”
Veneration of nature defines glass artist Kelly O’Dell. O’Dell was raised in Hawaii, where the arts (her parents had a stained and furnace glass studio in their home) and the lush environment were woven into her upbringing. Kelly O’Dell sees nature in the long view—its far-reaching past, its captivating present, and its precarious future. Just as the phenomena of past millennia are written in the planet today, the actions of the present create ripples going forward. The Ammonite was a coiled cephalopod that became extinct 65 million years ago when a comet hit the earth near the Yucatan peninsula, altering the weather dramatically and making most life unsustainable. Exquisite shells were left behind, empty homes to animals no longer alive, embedding their intricate patterns in the earth. O’Dell mimics these fossilized impressions in panels, liquid glass melting like a massive glacier, suspending shell slices in perpetuity. Exposed anatomy is writ in delicately blown and sculptured turquoise, maroon, and golden glass, shapes juxtaposed with one another in elegant formations such as butterfly wings.
In other work, O’Dell revives the Ammonite in glorious dimensions. Glass is blown in varying thicknesses, carved to move light effortlessly through the helix-like form. With her sumptuous palette—at times opaque and creamy, at times delicately transparent, at times dusted with luster—the work blends realism with an aura of fantasy. O’Dell brings this amalgam of scientific accuracy and artistic license to endangered sea creatures of today such as coral, concerned that human impact on the natural world will mimic history’s astronomical disasters. The viewer’s eye dances around the craggy textures, milky colors, and clustered forms of her coral, compelling us to protect this threatened species. Themes of extinction and preservation invariably reflect back on the self and our own mortality; O’Dell’s glass pieces memorialize nature’s lost glories, endeavor to forestall future destruction, and contemplate the universal life cycle of life, death, and renewal.