NARRATIVE ACCOUNT OF CAREER
Morgan O'Hara 

I was born in Los Angeles, grew up in post-war Japan and began to work seriously on my art in the mid 50s as a sophomore in high school. Tried living in Berkeley, San Francisco, Paris and Berlin. In Italy I invented a new form of drawing in the process of living. For the last 8 of 21 years in Italy, I maintained a studio in a 400 hundred year old farmhouse. At first I couldn't speak Italian and I gradually developed a particular form of non-verbal communication through performative drawing which has evolved into a very large body of work. In December 2011 I returned to live in New York after 25 years of living in Europe, becoming a member of The Elizabeth Foundation and taking  studio 610 in the building on 39th Street. I continue my practice, work internationally in performance art festivals, mentor young artists around the world, and teach master classes in drawing and the psychology of creativity.

LIFE-BASED ART.  I have committed my life to making art which observes and renders visible aspects of the experience of living in both twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By concentrating on details of hundreds of individual lives I have created a universal body of work. I begin with a concept, define it carefully, develop a modus operandi and then work to produce an extensive series of visual artworks which explore the concept. The first sign of life is movement and so observing and tracking movement has become the major focus of my work.

In 1975 I began what I call TIME STUDIES, a body of work which consists of a daily record of how I spend my time. I was at first working on the question of life and meaning. Over time, the meaning became for me the practice of attention itself. This body of work consists of color-coded grids, charts and diagram drawings and many notebooks. It was first shown at the Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1978. It was also shown in New York at the New Museum in 1986 and in Galerie Caesar in Olomouc in the Czech Republic in 2000. I have made a lifetime commitment to this TIME STUDIES work, now in its 35th year.

In 2008 I did a special accounting of my two month residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire: three thin boxes made by a master craftsman from rare yellow cedar from the forest in Aomori Prefecture in Japan. Each box contain 20 drawings, pages from a Japanese general store accounting book from 1933 combined with my own time accounting at MacDowell 75 years later. The drawings are cushioned on a bed of pine needles collected on the Colony grounds between my studio and the home of Edward and Marion MacDowell.

In 2009 I completed a conceptual and visual project, 1792 - 1794, 2009: fiscal accounting as time-based work and time-based accounting as performative drawing. The paper is handmade, produced in the 1700s, taken from a tailor's accounting book which has been inscribed with walnut mordent with a quill pen. Following the existing lines and inscriptions, I accounted for my use of time by drawing, painting (watercolor) and writing on the pages, accounting for my use of time, 24 hours per day, for the 55 days of my second residency at MacDowell.

In 2010 I completed a time study of a month-long period in Mexico where I travelled to draw the migration of Monarch butterflies in Michoacan.

The second important series I have done is PORTRAITS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. Begun in 1978, this series consists of 155 portraits of individuals based on their individual geographic displacement patterns. My idea was to render visible the trajectories of individual movement on the surface of the planet. Following this idea I would interview people, record their travels on maps and then lift the linear patterns from the maps, tracing them onto large sheets of drawing paper. Drawings of varying complexity, they were first done with graphite or ink on paper. Later I did them with acrylic paint on canvas and eventually returned to ink on paper, completing the series in 2001. These portraits have been shown in the United States and Europe, most recently in Köln, Germany at the Kölnischer Kunstverein's important show on migration in 2005.

The next body of work, begun in 1989, is called LIVE TRANSMISSION. To make the Live Transmission drawings, I track, in real time, the vital movement of living beings, transcending both figuration and abstraction, executing a direct neural translation from one human action into another. Drawing methodically with multiple razor-sharp pencils and both hands, as time-based performance, I condense movement into accumulations of graphite line which combine the controlled refinement of classical drawing with the unbound sensuality of spontaneous gesture. Time-space coordinates for each drawing are described with precision in the titles. In 2008 there exist approximately 3000 LIVE TRANSMISSION drawings done both privately and publicly on five continents. LIVE TRANSMISSIONS communicate beyond the specificity of language.

In 2000 I published the first volume of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIVE TRANSMISSION. In 2011 there exist four volumes of this encyclopedia. Three were published in Italy (2000, 2002, 2007) and one in Macau, China, at the Macau Art Museum where I had a 4 month residency in 2004-2005.

In 1996 I began FORM AND CONTENT, a series of ink drawings on paper based on the LIVE TRANSMISSIONS. Whereas the LIVE TRANSMISSIONS are done in real time by observing and recording a life activity in the field, the FORM AND CONTENT series evolves as research in the studio. LIVE TRANSMISSIONS are pored over, studied and grouped according to themes. All these factors are evaluated and different series are set up, broken down, regrouped, thrown out, retrieved and hung until a body of 36 works comes together in crystalline form: concept, image, meaning, subtle internal references, humor, text, scale, paper, ink and degrees of refinement.

When completed, this series will consist of 9 sets of 36 works, grouped according to different themes. To date I have completed five sets: THE SHAPE OF DISCOURSE (people whose professions concern words); KEYBOARD STUDIES (piano, organ, harmonium, accordion, electronic keyboard); MODUS OPERANDI (people at work); FORMAL ARRANGEMENTS (structured activities, choreographed dance, time honored arts, etc.) and MACAU (daily life activities in Macau). FORM AND CONTENT drawings as well as the LIVE TRANSMISSIONS are in many private as well as museum collections in Europe, the United States and Asia. The SHAPE OF DISCOURSE was honored as the second solo show in the Drawing Room at the Drawing Center in New York in 1997.

LARGE SITE-SPECIFIC WALL DRAWINGS evolved from the FORM AND CONTENT series and grew into a number of projects and commissions both temporary and permanent, done in private homes, galleries and museums. Twelve permanent site-specific wall drawings exist today. The largest in scale, done in 2006, is in the Freie Universiteit OZW Building in Amsterdam (images 22 - 24). The Macau Art Museum in the Peoples' Republic of China owns two done in 2005 (images 19 and 20). In 2008 Canadian Academy International School in Kobe, Japan, commissioned nine permanent large drawings. In 2010 I did a 40 foot-long site-specific wall drawing at the LAB Gallery in New York, three large wall drawings in the Galleria Alterna y Corriente in Mexico City, and in 2011, a 9.5 x 16 foot work at the Painting Center in New York.

I have worked to develop opportunities to do as well as to show my work in many parts of the world through projects and residencies on five continents, and welcome invitations to teach and to collaborate.