Lovely review of Told and Untold Stories in Vanguard Seattle

August 30, 2014

In the waning days of Stephen’s recent show at Winston Wächter Fine Art in Seattle, his work received praise from Vanguard Seattle’s managing editor, T. s. Flock:

“Last Chances: Three Gallery Shows Worth Running To, August 2014”

Stephen O’Donnell at Winston Wächter

I always love when O’Donnell comes out with a new show; the content doesn’t change drastically, and yet he always surprises me. The exquisitely skilled painter has for years created self-portraits in the style of the ancien regime transposing his face (and occasional glimpses of chest hair) onto the lavishly attired bodies of aristocratic women. Like Yoshida’s work, this is no mere narcissism, but a sly play on expectations of gender and beauty, and though it is always O’Donnell’s face, his varied expressions, positions and costumes make him a vessel for other identities, not the other way around.

This collection titled Told and Untold Stories is moodier and darker than much of his earlier work. The coquettes and animals and O’Donnell’s playful sense of humor and immaculate skill are the same; in most cases the palette is consistent with portraiture of the 18th century—bright and appealing bursts of primary colors, richly textured textiles, delicate lace and tresses, all posed among warm interiors and pristine gardens. He is also fond of mise en abyme compositions that become all the more recursive when multiple incarnations of O’Donnell occur the deeper one descends into the background. The layered compositions, sealed letters heavy coverings on bodies and windows create a palpable intrigue. But a few pieces take a darker palette, a greener hue uncharacteristic of the others, acquiring a light and a mood more romantic than baroque.

These pieces show that O’Donnell’s range is still increasing and it will be interesting to see where this trajectory may take him. All the while, his other works remain fresh and breathe new life and warmth into old tropes. Of special note is his triptych of the three goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, whom Paris was asked to judge as the most beautiful. It was a no win situation for the man, of course, and it doesn’t end well for him and all of Troy. O’Donnell shows what a chameleon he is, channeling these dangerous deities—imperious and jealous Hera, unyielding and cool Athena, seductive and capricious Aphrodite—with their symbolic birds and perfect choices for hair and dress. O’Donnell’s work is a feast for the eyes, and those who love fashion and style—especially the implicit androgyny and gender-bending of haute couture—O’Donnell’s work is a must see.

See the complete article here at Vanguard Seattle.




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