what others see/say of me
.Kathabela Wilson's Interview, October 2014
. Alex Nodopaka's interview, January 2015
. More from Kathabela Wilson, August 2015
. Kathy Ward in Hometown Pasadena May 2016
. Alex Nodopaka's interview, January 2017
. Feature Friday, Ink In Thirds, January 2018
. Interview in Eastern Iowa Review, January 2018
about my visual art...
Toti O'Brien is an exquisite artist. She never sounds a false note. Her work is deceptively simple as she is committed to a discipline of the "spare" in terms of props or materials. She uses common objects that are elevated to the profound by her resonant content. She is gifted and trained in a number of artistic discipline: performance (dance, theatre, singing, performance art) and sculpture, drawing and collage. She also makes dolls and toys that are filled with pathos. She avoids the common places of "work for children", which is often self-referential. She reflects instead on the deepest qualities of childhood - imagination, dreaming, fear and containment. In short, there is nothing she cannot do- except to be false. An added dividend is her kind, open, sensitive and fair-minded nature. Her personality lends itself to a community and she will most certainly bring a great deal to any situation involving conversation/connection with the public and other artists. She is also multilingual: an international person who is comfortable in a number of settings and cultures. Her work is universal as well in hat its content is reflexive of "big ideas" that link us all (Elisa Callow - former director of Armory Center For the Arts, art consultant for Natural History Museum)
about my performance work……
I am very familiar with Toti O'Brien's performance work, having attended many of her performances both here and abroad. Her ability to stream diverse content into a dream-like and suggestive whole has a rare poetic dimension. While visually captivating, her performances are also conceptually rich and psychologically resonant. Toti is both a poet and a thinker.
More specifically, her performances combine elements of dance, spoken and recorded text, powerful visual elements such as staging, costumes and props, projections and shadows. Her training as a singer, dancer and actor is also an enormous resource: she uses the body expressively and skillfully to reinforce her messages. There is a fine balance between the intellectual and more intuitional or psychological aspects of her work. She offers her audience a deeply meaningful experience. She is vibrant and immensely talented artist (Ruth Weisberg - artist, Dean of Fine Arts, USC)
I got acquainted with Toti O'Brien's work as an artist, writer and performer while co-teaching an interdisciplinary course one Performance Art with artist Ruth Weisberg. Through Dean Weisberg's recommendation, we invited Toti O'Brien as a guest artist in our class. Ms O'Brien led a performance workshop with our students and presented an excerpt of her solo performance on Katherine Mansfield short stories. I was fascinated with her sound and movement-based performance, which skillfully turned various costume pieces into props, sets and characters at different moments.
As I offered a History of World Theatre course in the following fall, I invited Ms O'Brien to conduct a performance workshop with my theatre students. The class she led was superb. She first talked to the students gently about the characteristics and postures of each Commedia dell'Arte character, while simultaneously warming up to enter her presentation ian graceful manner. When she assumed the physical masks and the characters, her body transformation was absolutely astonishing. Both her facial and physiological structures seemed to have altered by the characters she embodied. My students and I were deeply impressed, for we had witnessed the art of theatre at its heights. Since then, her commedia workshop has become one of the most anticipated events in my History classes.
Toti O'Brien's performances are marked by a lyrical sensibility, physical intensity, and a poetic sense of design. Usually progressing through a disnarrative, her text is as much a collection of multi-lingual sounds as a collage of spatial vibrations. Her conceptual innovation is matched with a kinetic vocabulary that veers between dancerly elegance and eccentric awkwardness, presenting a gamut of corporeal neologisms. A delightful result of her experiment is a dream like vista, punctuated of nonsensical humor. In a field filled with facile proselytizing work, OBrien's art performance offers an inspiring alternative, opening up and enchanting space for contemplation and exploration. (Meiling Cheng - Professor of Theatre Studies, USC)
Unlike any other artist I know, Toti O'Brien combines movement, narration and sound to create a setting for a magical mystery tour through a fairy tale, a mysterious story, a happening that can be seen only in this way. Flitting between dance and movement, spoken and recorded narration, O'Brien demonstrates her classical training and her performative mode, becoming a nexus between the formality of dance and the openness of performance art. Using props, slides, projections and an effective use of sound, the narrative does not come clearly to the audience for it's often veiled in multiple layers. It is not language that is important, but the conflicts of everyday life which include relationships between the contrasts of our lives: static and nomadic, sane and insane etc. Lighting is also a very important element, although lately the artist has used the outdoors as well, both during day and at night. It is transformative. There is always a child-like fairy tale which becomes a moral to the story for all, not just children, but adults in any language, in any country. The universality of her work creates a medium for even the hard of hearing, the very young, and the very old. (Judith Hoffberg - Curator and Critic)
about my music...
We have repeatedly invited Toti O'Brien to perform at our bi-annual Ceramic Art Fairs. An accomplished artist in many fields, including ceramics, Toti is active in many areas of the performing arts in L.A. Her elegant style and diverse repertoire create the perfect ambiance for the mixed crowds that our event attracts (Suzette Munnik - artist, director Xiem Clay Center)