Stephen O’Donnell’s latest exhibition of paintings, titled Re:Pose - Subverting the Gendered Gaze in the Historical Nude, sees the artist approaching questions of who gets objectified in art, whose body is held up as beautiful, and who gets to make these judgements, as he upends representations of gender and race through recreated compositions from the Western art historical canon. These include well-known works by a cavalcade of largely – but not exclusively – white, heterosexual male artists: Manet, Ingres, de Lempicka, Gentileschi, Velázquez, Caravaggio, Titian, and others. In subverting the gaze of these artists, other modes of “looking” are at play – figures stare at themselves in mirrors, supplanting original allegories with luscious displays of self-possession and admiration. Eyes fix knowingly – disarmingly - on the viewer, or are directed upward in reverence, or are cast sidelong at an unseen point outside of the picture.
Both playful and reflective, O’Donnell’s models assume the poses and styles of dress – and undress - of the titular historical nudes, while they themselves carry notably contemporary indicators of hairstyle, tattoos, and the like. The artist himself makes cameo appearances, entering larger scenes in intricate gowns as a supporting player, as well as in close-up self-portraits in a trio of small paintings. Painting in exquisite, fine brushstrokes, O’Donnell coyly subverts and pays tribute to revered paintings.
Stephen O’Donnell will be joined by Lidia Yuknavitch, acclaimed author of The Book of Joan, The Backs of Small Children, The Chronology of Water and other books, including her upcoming novel Thrust, for a virtual conversation on Wednesday, November 3rd, at 5:30 pm (PST) via Froelick Gallery’s Facebook and YouTube pages.