William J. O’Brien

Professor, Ceramics

William J. O’Brien has been teaching at SAIC since 2009. He took his sabbatical during the 2020 Academic Year.

William (Bill) J. O’Brien works in multiple mediums, including drawing, painting, ceramic, metal sculpture, installation, and assemblage. Inspired by Modernism, as well as the material usage of Outsider Art, O’Brien’s multidisciplinary practice is a search for identity and genuine expression through material and process. His prolific output offers a visual profusion of color, pattern, and exuberant excess through his exploration of repetition, religion and spirituality, sexuality, family and lineage, cycles, layers, and influences.

O’Brien has had solo exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Renaissance Society, Chicago, KMAC Museum, Louisville, MAD Museum, NYC, Witte De With, Rotterdam, and The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, among others. In 2014 he had his first major museum survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago curated by Naomi Beckwith. He has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the U-Cross Foundation, and has received awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and Artadia alongside a fellowship from the Illinois Art Council. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Saatchi Gallery, Miami Art Museum, Pérez Art Museum, Hammer Museum, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the Cleveland Clinic and New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is currently the Chair of the Ceramics Department.


2005 MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
1997 BA, Loyola University, Chicago

Notable Classes Taught:

Ceramic Sculpture
Getting Weird and Hilarious