GFU featured artist creates structured patterns in seemingly random pieces

It’s hard for people to describe Alison O’Donoghue’s art.

Although she often calls it “contemporary folk art,” she said she’s still unsure what the best way to describe it is.

“It’s hard to describe your own (work),” she said, “but it kind of fits.”

O’Donoghue specializes in patterns. Her pieces typically involve many characters or things, all interconnected and filling the canvas.

“Sometimes people ask why I don’t leave that part blank,” she said. “I just can’t.”

It’s some-thing she said she has worked consciously to achieve.

“I already had an affinity for (patterns), that’s why I was interested in it,” she said. “It took lots of practice. It really informed the design of my work.”by: GARY ALLEN - Organized chaos - Featured artist Alison O'Donoghue creates seemingly chaotic images, but upon  closer inspection her pieces feature intricate organization and brightly-colored pathways. Her work is displayed at the George Fox University Minthorne Gallery until Dec. 5.

She said her method provides the characters in her pieces a place to play.

“I really want (my pieces) to be balanced and composed in a certain way,” she said. “I feel at home in that structure.”

O’Donoghue is the featured artist at the George Fox University Minthorne Gallery. And gallery director Tim Timmerman said the students love it.

“The day after the show students said, ‘I love her, oh my gosh I just love her,’” Timmerman said.

He said it’s a combination of her work, which he described as a lot of fun, and O’Donoghue herself.

“I saw something I’ve never seen before. A group of students started following her around as she described each piece to them. They just loved it,” Timmerman said. “Students loved how genuine and accessible she was. She really wanted to engage with students.”

O’Donoghue said she enjoyed visiting with the GFU students, as well as their enthusiasm.

“I think having an opening there was better than a gallery as far as enthusiasm,” she said. “They are young and want to hear (about art). Just that curiosity, I really loved it.”

She added that she’s excited to pick up her art at the end of the show because it’s a second opportunity to visit with the students and talk with them about her craft.

Timmerman said he suspected students would appreciate her work, but how he came upon her pieces is a unique story.

“She actually bought a piece of my work,” he said. “She bought the first piece of my show (last year). It was a goofy piece I thought no one would buy. She saw it and said, ‘I love this. This is one of my children.’”

After they got to talking about art, O’Donoghue invited Timmerman to visit one of her shows.

“I saw her show and I can see why she liked my work,” he said. “I saw her work and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, students would love her work.’ I can’t say I’ve every gotten art for the gallery that way.”

O’Donoghue’s show, “Riding Into Tomorrow,” runs until Dec. 5 at the Minthorne Gallery. For more information about O’Donoghue and her work, visit

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