Safe House: Helen O’Leary

Safe House features the works of Irish-born artist Helen O’Leary, who lives and works in Hoboken, New Jersey. O’Leary’s constructions straddle the territories between painting and sculpture. Many of her freestanding works are arranged on tabletops, and when joined with other wall-oriented compositions, create a lively and engaging installation. Created of wooden strips, plywood, cotton duct and other materials, these works share each other’s space while asserting their own unique, yet quirky stance. “I knit with wood,” O’Leary states, “building and building the painting out of the ruin of its own making. Each piece is cobbled together from the chiseling of earlier attempts.”

O’Leary’s works are raw, yet intuitively assembled, and imbued with soul. Flat wooden cutout shapes are joined together through notched-out sections, while rough sticks are fashioned into supports like complex armatures. These re-purposed materials reveal their histories– imperfections celebrated while coming together like puzzle pieces.  Some of O’Leary’s constructions incorporate expansive planes of color. In these, the artist has crafted and applied a sophisticated paint mixture to render surfaces like an almond that’s been coated with sugar to reveal a hardened, smooth shell.

Web O'Leary 1                                             Web O'Leary 2


  1. Helen O’Leary (American, born Ireland 1961) View of the Artist’s Studio
  2. Helen O’Leary (American, born Ireland 1961) Safe House, 2017-2018, Egg tempera and oil emulsion on constructed wood