Morgan O'Hara - ART CART Oral History

O'Hara, Morgan; He, Echo; Ling, Karen; Teachers College. Research Center for Arts and Culture

Morgan O'Hara talks about how she started to create life-based conceptual art in the 1970s and how her art has evolved in the past thirty-seven years. The interview includes her exploration in four series: Time Study, Portraits of 20th Century, Live Transmission, and John Cage 100th Anniversary Memorial. She also talks about how her art is influenced by Calligraphy, Matisse, Paul Klee and John Cage.

Morgan O'Hara's conceptually based performative drawing researches the vital movement of living beings, the human experience of time and space. It is culturally contextualized in the practice of drawing as a fundamental human endeavor. Her work is continuous with the time-honored practice of life and requires presence, connection, direct observation and LIVE TRANSMISSION. Through this work, she transcends the arbitrary "oppositions" between abstract and figurative art, between purely gestural expression and documentary intent, creating narrative work which results in a final product which is not figurative. The method she has developed requires close observation and actual drawing in real time with multiple razor-sharp pencils and both hands. Simultaneous to an action taking place, she condenses movement into accumulations of graphite line, combining the controlled refinement of classical drawing with the sensuality of spontaneous gesture. O'Hara has done her LIVE TRANSMISSION performative drawings on five continents.
Morgan O'Hara (b. Los Angeles 1941) was raised in an international community in post-war Japan. She earned a Master's Degree in Art from California State University at Los Angeles, had her first solo exhibition in the Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1978. In the 1980s she began doing performative drawing in international performance art festivals, did her first site specific wall drawings and began the practice of aikido, a Japanese martial art. In 1997 O'Hara's work was honored with a solo show in the Drawing Room at the Drawing Center in New York. Her work is in the permanent collections of many institutions, including: The British Museum, London; Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, Germany; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; Czech National Gallery, Prague; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; Hood Museum of Art - Dartmouth College, New Hampshire; Janacek Museum, Brno, Czech Republic; Macau Art Museum, Macau, China; Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Olomouc Museum of Art, Czech Republic; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Vrie Universiteit OZW, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile; Wannieck Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic; Weatherspoon Gallery, Greensboro, North Carolina. Her permanent site specific wall drawings can be found in the Macau Art Museum, Macau, China; The Canadian Academy Kobe, Japan, and the Vrije Universiteit OZW Building, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
She has been awarded numerous international residencies and is recipient of grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Gottleib Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Leon Levy Foundation, David and Rosamond Putnam Travel Fund and Milton and Sally Avery Foundation. O'Hara O'Hara maintained her studio in Europe for 25 years. She currently resides in New York and works internationally.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Research Center for Arts and Culture
Published Here
January 29, 2014


This zip archive contains audio files of an oral history interview and a text file describing themes addressed in the interview. For more information about the ART CART project, please visit their website: