Stephen O'Donnell returns for his seventh solo exhibition at Froelick Gallery. The paintings he presents in Beastly are rendered in impossibly fine brushstrokes of acrylic, depicting both the artist and animals in humorous, compelling and sometimes challenging scenes. Recognized foremost as a painter of gender-defying self-portraits in which he is adorned in the dress and hairstyle of past centuries, O'Donnell depicts himself in billowing gowns and bouffants, ruffs, bodices, and even in Frida Kahlo's signature shawl and floral corona. In some, he is positioned in lavish drawing rooms; others against simple fabric backdrops.
True to the show's title, beasts and birds come to the forefront of a number of paintings; some interacting with the central human figure, others taking the spotlight themselves. The latter are paired, comically, with luxurious jewelry. These baubles, indicators of wealth and station in our world, are essentially useless to the squirrel, the monkey, the chickadee. The contrast between the glimmer and elegance of the objects and the simple adornments of feathers and fur is compelling; human artistry versus evolutionary refinement. O'Donnell paints both with an apparent great relish for the textural challenges afforded by both.