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We rarely talk about comedy in painting — but if ever there was an artist having fun with the medium, it’s Portland’s brilliant, hilarious Stephen O’Donnell.
O’Donnell’s witty self-portraits turn gender on its head, sabotaging period detail in the process. The self-taught artist’s favorite ploy is to depict himself in elaborate 18th-century drag, with five o’clock shadow and chest hair in plain view.
O’Donnell’s acrylic-on-panel brushwork, almost photorealistic in technique, is exquisitely nuanced and controlled. But the visions he summons of himself are anything but straightforward.
...The playfulness of O’Donnell’s “Told and Untold Stories” has its spooky side too. It isn’t just his maverick choices of subject matter, but the finesse he brings to his task that makes the best of these works feel like masterpieces.
From extreme youth, I was always known as the “artistic child”; my mother often tells of my first career as a very young muralist – the medium was crayon – and how I happily adorned the walls of whatever rented house we happened to live in at the time. My parents are both native to Portland, Oregon, but my father was in the Air Force, and we moved every few years; the great majority of my childhood was spent near various Air Force bases in California. When I was 19, my father retired and my parents and siblings moved back to Portland. I stayed in California.
I had always been the star art pupil in school. Shy, overweight, and the perpetual new kid, being “artistic” was my established persona at home and in the world. I got a lot of attention for it, I found some acceptance through it. It was the one place in my life where I could be certain of respect. As a teenager, I participated in competitions and exhibitions in all four of the high schools I attended, I did commissioned portraiture, and it... (http://www.stephenodonnellartist.com/about/)