For over 45 years, Janet and Jay O’Rourke have created magical one-of-a-kind artwork through sculptures, turnings, carvings and wall pieces made of wood.
The nationally recognized husband-and-wife team — whose work is on display through Oct. 23 at The Gallery @ CGAF (Coconut Grove Arts Festival) — create bold, vibrant and unique masterpieces that are also environmentally friendly — made of wood salvaged from naturally fallen trees and cured for about a year.
Gathering inspiration from nature and magic, Janet O’Rourke paints eccentric, detailed patterns such as mermaids or fairies onto wood shapes. Janet’s pencils, paint brushes and carving tools are her tools of the trade; Jay’s lathe and carving tools are his.
“Jay and I got together and for many years we did exotic hard-wood carvings and we would add my influence of all the fairies into the exotic hard woods,” Janet said. “We then decided that it was too hard to keep using rainforest wood since we were living in the Midwest.
“Then one day, there was an ice storm, so everyone kept bringing us blonde wood,” she continued. “So we started turning it and carving it and I thought that it was very boring. So I’d pretend the wood was paper and treat it as an illustration and things grew, becoming these amazing magical creations.”
All the O’Rourkes’ art pieces are carved and painted by hand, decorated with anything including color pencils, pigment, pyrography and Swarovski rhinestones — all finished with a layer of acrylic lacquer.
“When I first saw their work, I never thought it would be wood because it’s so detailed and whimsical and personal. And the craftsmanship is perfect,” said Lilia Garcia, director and curator of The Gallery @ CGAF. “I thought it would be clay or glass, but never wood.”
Having been featured in over 14 books, the O’Rourkes of Cocoa, Florida, have also won dozens of awards in their medium, the most recent being the “Award of Excellence” in 2017 from the Florida Mosaic’s Festival of the Arts. Their work has been exhibited in several art fairs including the American Craft Council shows and the Smithsonian craft show, with their work also being found in galleries around the world.
Since her childhood, Janet O’Rourke has found her inspiration for what would become a lifetime of masterpieces.
“I was raised by a British woman, my mom, and she believed in fairies,” Janet said. “As a girl she would take me back to England and we would look for fairies and she would also read me fairy tales.”
This same infatuation for the mythical and ethereal is encapsulated in each of Janet’s pieces, as she finds inspiration for all her work in her garden, butterflies and from reading old fairy tells, as well as having written her own books on fairies.
“Nature is my biggest inspiration,” she said. “This is what we’ve done our whole life so the artwork just grows; it’s like a metamorphosis — it keeps changing and growing into new things.”
Hoping to expand their projects in size in the near future, the O’Rourkes’ work with one goal in mind:
“What we hope to do through our art is to spread more beauty, love and magic on the planet,” Janet said. “Hopefully our work will make you smile. Then our job is done.”
If you go
Janet and Jay O’Rourkes’ art will be exhibited in a presentation titled “Fragments of Fairy Tales” through Oct. 23 at the Gallery @ CGAF (Coconut Grove Arts Festival).
The gallery, 3390 Mary St., Suite 128, Coconut Grove, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and by appointment.
For more information about the Gallery @ CGAF, visit www.cgaf.com.