KCAD Alum ('22, MA Art Education)

A painting of a pair of weathered hands resting on a Queen Anne's Lace patterned tablecloth.


Hand-sewn Haven
The Threads that Bind Us
Sanctuary II
Queen Anne's Lace


"Learning that someone close to your heart has experienced a trauma can send you down a dark, inquisitive path. Who? What? Where? When? How? The answers to these questions are often unsatisfactory, revealing the facts but never allowing any of the pain to be reversed. It is far more meaningful to examine how that loved one could pull themselves out of the depths of the trauma. This collection has allowed me to explore my memories of love through a new lens of appreciation for the role models within my family. I can revel in my nostalgia through the slow drying of oil paint and the even slower act of embroidery. My work is a celebration of the profound effect that one caring role model can have on a person's path in life. By incorporating mixed media that metaphorically connects to my subjects' lives, I have cultivated a healing dialogue for myself and my family. This artwork and dialogue have become a literal portal into their personal human experience. These materials act as the connecting thread between my life and theirs. My body of work focuses not on trauma but on the power of a caring individual's love to overcome its often detri- mental effects.

I believe that to move into the future successfully, we must use the lessons learned in the past as a guide. I have respectfully unlocked my family's history through the symbols of tree rings, Queen Anne's lace, and weathered hands. This artistic expe- rience has opened up a multi-generational healing process. The universal human experience always has some level of pain or adversity. Pain festers when past gen- erations have not dealt with their adversity and is often passed down to subsequent generations. This work has allowed me to explore the hopeful story of closing a chapter of trauma and beginning a new narrative of love, respect, and the power of a caring relationship. Through this process, infinite futures await."


Colleen O'Donnell is an artist and teacher living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a result of childhood moves and jobs in adulthood, she has spent most of her life living hundreds of miles from her extended family. This distance sparked a fascination to learn about her family history in an effort to retain a closeness with those who lived so far. During visits with family, she can often be found pouring over old photo- graphs and saved letters and engaging in conversations with loved ones about the past. This propensity for nostalgia has greatly influenced her current body of work. Combining oil paint and embroidery, she explores themes of memory, relationships, and generational connectedness.