True Believers

Co-curated with Katey Acquaro. The show was exhibited at RISD Exposé.

In recent years our friends have become obsessed with astrology. As we become more complex, our relationships more nuanced, our political climate rockier, it seems only natural to rely on some sort of faith.

True Believers emerged from an interest in the relationship between the evolution of Western affirmations and exuberant mantras and an increasingly present but fraught political climate. As a generation that has largely moved away from traditional religious faith, how do we formulate belief? How does that belief impact our experience of contemporary crisis? How does contemporary crisis impact our experience of ourselves?

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Model 13 (pegleg)

Curated and exhibited as part of the Critical Curating course taught by curator Manuel Cirauqui. The show was displayed at the Rhode Island School of Design's Memorial Hall Gallery.

Prompted by a class exercise, Model 13 (pegleg) evolved into an exploration of the very act of curating. Finding itself at the odd intersection of aesthetic desire and material (and often bureaucratic) constraint, the show explored this dynamic by having students curate a portion of the show while having their work simultaneously curated.

Additionally, I co-designed and edited the accompanying exhibition catalogue with Edith Young. The catalogue can be found here.

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Less But Butter

Seeing an odd growing connection between political crisis and the production of affect in pop music, PROD. was formed by Dominique Fenichell, Reid Hoyt, and Charles O’Leary to develop a vocabulary for the ways that culture and affect become communicated through object design.

Our first issue, Less But Butter, takes on one of Dieter Rams’ design commandments, “Less but better.” While Rams’ commandments were published in the 80s, we found their tenants echoed in a recent move toward reduced, minimal design. Less But Butter argues for an approach to design that doesn’t shirk away from political engagement, instead taking on and embodying the complex condition of politics and identity. All graphics and texts produced in collaboration with Dominique Fenichell and Reid Hoyt. The full PDF of the publication can be found here.

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Honesty is Valuable

Chairs produced in collaboration with Katey Acquaro, Denna Ameen, Annika Berry, Eva Foldy, Emil Gombos, Haven Kim, Kendall Lane, Henry Swanson, and Taehee Whang.

Honesty is Valuable consists of an instruction manual and all the necessary parts to produce a small chair. Inspiration came from Enzo Mari's Autoprogettazione, particularly the belief that making our objects by hand allows us to develop a closer, more intrinsic relationship with objects and demystify production processes. Throughout the manual, the user is continually prompted with texts that emphasize the emotive qualities of failure, decor, and taste (or lack thereof). The end result is a small chair that the user sees themselves in and more readily identifies with. The full PDF of the pamphlet can be found here.

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Retrofit as a term emerged from my parents' ongoing renovation of their new house. Architecturally used to describe the outfitting of an old structure with contemporary parts, the act becomes an act of projecting desire onto pre-existing things. My parents opted to build their dream home from the former home of playwright William Gibson. To build their dream home with heat, they had to take out almost every wall. We watched his play as we gutted his kitchen.

From this beginning, Retrofit became an investigation of how queer narrative and representation could be cultivated and abstracted thru our relationship to pre-existing objects. An obsession with the built environment became a form of self-fashioning. For once making objects could be as exciting as when I painted my room My Fair Lady pink.

Retrofit was completed as a Degree Project for my BFA in Furniture Design. I designed an accompanying book that can be found here.

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For Your Kid

Initially researching the Little Tikes model plastic chair, the over-rounded, safe-to-touch exterior draws associations to the Montessori school furniture, a tradition based in developmental science. The two are associated in function and design, but one would rarely draw a visual connection between the cheap, mass-produced plastic and crafted wood furniture.

For Your Kid emerged from an interest in meeting these two disparate visual languages, creating an object that straddles furniture vocabularies as well as distinctions between designing for children and adults.

For Your Kid For Your Kid For Your Kid


A play in form vernacular, Cart merges the idea of a loading cart with a vanity mirror. Facing the mirror inwards rather than outwards, it suggests a moment of self-reflection for the object on the cart rather than its user.

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Pink Bench (I Think)

I have always had a love/hate relationship with John McCracken.

Pink Bench (I Think) Pink Bench (I Think)

1994 - 2017

Charles O'Leary is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and writer. He earned his BFA in Furniture Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has worked with/for a number of artists, designers, and institutions, including Metropolis Magazine, the RISD Museum, Stewart Uoo, Chris Wolston, and Chen Chen & Kai Williams. Currently, he is working as a Web Content Coordinator for Wolf Gordon.

I'm interested in the transition from monologue to dialogue, and holding space for the grey areas in between. This has manifested thru a making and writing (and ideally living) practice, using both to explore how objects can serve as cultural monuments and communication tools. This emerged from a bunch of places and activities, not necessarily listed in order: decorating my first apartment (and my mom's decorating principles), "Having a Coke With You" by Frank O'Hara, the meltdown of communication before/after the election, Jose Muñoz's idea of "disidentification," growing up in the Legalize Gay / Born This Way era, inclusivity and performative listening.


Charles O'Leary

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