It begins in the basement of his client's house. A 150-foot tunnel links the house with two outbuildings, a barn and
a greenhouse. The tunnel is full of decorative elements, including a 40-foot-long illuminated glaze painting. Coming out of
the tunnel, you emerge into the barn, which contains offices and a central hallway. At the end of the barn is the greenhouse,
which is the crowning element of the project.
"You walk into an environment
that has four large monoliths rising out of a reflecting pool of water," explains O'Leary. The largest monolith is 28
feet high. "You can wade in the water and walk around the bases of the monoliths, and they have not only internal lighting,
but there is a waterfall happening in various places on the four monoliths. All the waterflows and light phenomena can be
run from the client's Palm Pilot. And he has an infinite number of scenarios that he can create with water and light."
On one of my visits to Tariki, the monoliths were being constructed. The interior is a steel skeleton braced by a
series of horizontal steel "donuts," as large as four feet by three feet. All this steel supports the ceramic surface
of the monolith.
I note the obvious: this shows that an artist must also be a problem-solver,
an inventor, and an engineer. "Exactly," he replies. "And I think art is actually going through a big swing
from the purely conceptual back to a place where execution is valued again, the craft of art is important again." It's
a lesson that he learned from his father, who evolved from craftsman to artist while never losing touch with the technical
skills that undergirded his work.
With undisguised pleasure, O'Leary splashes a cupful
of water on a ceramic surface. What had been a subtle, muted palette is instantly transformed into a rainbow of striking colors
-- a masterwork of the art of ceramic glazing.
"When I was in the canyon
region, there's a series of formations you walk through, they're enormous in scale. And there's an astounding range of color! Different geologies, water, plants, and there's this kind of unfolding story. With these monoliths,
I'm hopeful that I can tell a whole series of stories and tie them all together through the use of glaze and color and texture."