New Orleanians, Visual Arts

Hide and seek: ‘Brother O’Mara’ stashes unique skulls throughout New Orleans

This local artist uses his Instagram page to give clues about where his hidden treasures are.

Remember that feeling you got as a child when you played hide and seek and you actually found who you were looking for?

Imagine that, but as an adult. Kevin O’Mara, better known to some as Brother O’Mara, uses his Instagram page to leave clues about where to find his unique polymer clay skulls.

O’Mara, whose main hobby was photography for years, decided he needed another creative pursuit to keep his attention. He tried other things, like stamp carving, working with metal and none of them ever really stuck.

“One day I said, ‘Maybe I’ll try sculpting with polymer clay,'” he explained. “You can buy it anywhere, it’s cheap and you don’t have to have a big oven like you do for earth clay or ceramics. You can just use the oven in your house. So I said, ‘Fine, I’ll buy some of that.'”

After several days, he’d finished his first project with the clay, which was a bust of a human face.

“It came out great, and I said I want to go back to working with clay, but I don’t want to start something else that’s going to take me another 10 days to do,” O’Mara said. “Let me see if I can knock out something in just one night.”

That’s when the idea of the small skulls was born, and now, for almost a year, O’Mara has been hiding them around town for people to find. The first one took someone 30 minutes to find, and O’Mara hasn’t stopped since.

O’Mara said the feeling of satisfaction when someone finds his skulls never gets old.

“It works very much in the same way that drugs do, and then the high is not as strong and so it makes me want to do it more,” he said. “But it’s never not good. I’m always genuinely, legitimately happy for whoever found it because their happiness is infectious, and a thought that I was able to make something, provided to someone for free, at random, I don’t know who it’s going to be. That I was able to bring some joy into their day, is very satisfying. It’s a shame I have a regular job because I would love to go out and have more time to sculpt and hide things but as it is, twice a week works out for me.”

Every so often, O’Mara auctions off his work for good causes.

“Several months ago I wanted to make a skull that was very deliberately like stripes of color, and the first thing that popped in my head was the colors of the trans pride flag,” he said.

 

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Trans rights are human rights. The other day I had the impulse to make a skull out of solid strips of color and the very first thing that popped into my head was the transgender pride flag. Supporting my trans friends and neighbors (and everyone in the LGBTQ spectrum) is something that’s important to me and I want to remind myself to be more vocal about it. This skull is named Marsha after Marsha P. Johnson, the Black trans woman who effectively kicked off the Stonewall Uprising. I don’t know that I’ll ever leave this skull out on a hide. I may, for the first time ever, do something like a sale or an auction where I can donate the proceeds to a group that helps humans in my area. #transrightsarehumanrights #skull #polymerclay #neworleans

A post shared by Brother O’Mara (@brotheromara) on

In order to make sure the skull landed in the hands of someone who would appreciate its message, he decided to auction it off and give the proceeds to Breakout, a group that helps minority Trans youth.

“I was thinking $20 or $40, and it ended up being $230, and I just couldn’t believe that someone was willing to put up that kind of money for something I made,” he said. “If I can use my unexpected popularity to benefit other people, I think I have an obligation to do that.”

O’Mara said working on something as small as the skulls helps him focus.

“When I was doing photography, I would go out to different places and I would go out on my bike or my car,” he said. “How much of the environment am I going to miss if I’m going out in my car? When I’m on foot I see everything. I get back to the computer editing and I’m distracted, and with working with clay all that just goes away. I sit in one place and I go off until another world in my head and I forget all of the stress from work, and all of the stress of politics and the environment, and everything around me, and it’s very meditative. It just gives me an opportunity to get away from it all for a while.”

Click here to follow Brother O’Mara on Instagram or here to visit his website.