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Hillel O'Leary is a sculptor and designer living and working in the northeastern United States. His work draws from the exploration of naturally occurring and man-made form. It serves to provide a basis for the contemplation of our relationships, and to that which surrounds us.
  • Sculptor/ Freelance design and fabrication
    Hillel O'Leary Sculpture — USA
  • Instructor/Technician
    Penn State University — USA
  • Exhibit Technician
    Providence Children's Museum — RI, USA
  • Founding Member
    The Wurks — RI, USA
  • Lead Artist/Fabricator/Instructor
    The Steel Yard — RI, USA
  • Sculpture Foundry Monitor
    Rhode Island School Of Design — Providence, RI, USA
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Beyond the Way it’s Always Been

When my Jewish parents bought our first home in the suburbs, there was a swastika scrawled inside of it. They painted over it, and did not speak of it again until I was thirty three.

The place was never big enough for all of us, and at one point, it had been even smaller. A r… Read More
Beyond the Way it’s Always Been

When my Jewish parents bought our first home in the suburbs, there was a swastika scrawled inside of it. They painted over it, and did not speak of it again until I was thirty three.

The place was never big enough for all of us, and at one point, it had been even smaller. A rich family’s vacation home hastily converted into a poor family’s permanent residence. This suburban American neighborhood was never made for us. Our heritage was hidden beneath white skin and Irish surname, and we slipped through the white picket gates, past the keepers of an unspoken agreement preventing access to those deemed undesirable due to their color or belief system. “That was the way it had always been”.

There was a line of old paint where the porch had been annexed into the living room. This demarcation grew blurrier with the scraping of thrift-store furniture and the clomping of little boys’ muddy boots. Beyond that line, my boundaries extended out in concentric rings, and tensions grew as I moved outward from one ring to the next. I told people that Hillel was a Gaelic name. When they found out I was Jewish, I was met with violence and expulsion. I never quite felt like I belonged anywhere.

These experiences became the gift of looking inward and outward all at once, questioning who and what I am. There is a sense of vigilance toward time, space, and feeling born of the necessity to protect myself and those around me from the nefarious acts of unconscious tradition. Navigating this is the pulsing of inside and out, of physical border and social boundary. It became the practice of spotting the thin worn layer of whitewash over thick sinister residue. It was the tension of impending harm and the release of escape. It was a call to question the traditional and archetypal.

My sculpture and installation exist for this purpose. They invite investigation of personal connections to the unconscious and potentially harmful. My work approaches identity and place through the use of symbol, archetype, and mark that incite an emotional gut-feeling in the tension between the abstraction of familiar objects, and the alien obscurity of deftly manipulated materials. In this work, objects hint at and deny their origins, charging the space between the familiar and the unknown. It is in this inhabited, uncomfortable space that we gain new perspective on that which is usually taken for granted. Evidence of bending, breaking, and deforming suspends objects in the midst of some impending kinetic force. I employ stasis and suspension as the dilation of time, the entanglement of thrill and terror that comes with the anticipation of what might happen next.

It is in these moments that we know what we are made of. They have given me clarity and purpose, and I seek to provoke the unconscious tradition with the discomfort of truth as we stand back and see ourselves for what we really are. Read Less
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