Artist Statement for The American Landscape Series: Louise Marie O’Donnell

I work in the form of series. Sometimes returning to the same group of ideas years later. I generally oil paint and incorporate video, sculpture, installation, and creative writing, regularly photographing my surroundings-and using them to illustrate the larger contexts individual moments of life can imply. I draw my material from this practice of regularly photographing, and keeping a list throughout each year of things I know to be true but cannot prove. I take images that are much like the lists I make, ambiguous yet omnipresent. This year that practice of image/idea gathering has brought me to a sub genre of the unproveable-things that get us to this world at this time; urges, drives, fundamental things. I observed that when it comes to landscapes the ambiguous is often created with concrete terms and objects. I travel around with a camera, photographing American landscapes that conjure a feeling and cultural modality we have yet to define but have started living. I began to filter these images into paintings that give the impression of neutral emotions, or depict an un-inhabited public space like a coliseum at night when it begins to feel lost and supernatural. My recent painting spoke more to the frustration and disconnection in these landscapes. I painted three women meeting the viewer’s gaze under an institutional ceiling that resembles the millennium falcon (classic Star Wars ship). The painting includes a shelf with a perfume made for each of the women with essential oils and their own sweat. The viewer is instructed to try and determine what happens when they use the perfume and look at the figure. It is sort of an odd arrangement; there is some kind of attempt at communion with the figure. A parallel is drawn between this lack of experience the viewer has with my work and the way the images I use are subverted symbols. The Oil portrait has become a mystery again because skill is an American abstract, fancy modern architecture has become such part of our periphery we mistake it for a spacecraft. My work has always been preoccupied with the ancient practice of summing up and understanding the shape of humanity as a whole. Our time period, yet undefined, always enters my work. My current American landscapes mimic our perception of the reality we are manifesting as a mystery. I use subjects in my landscapes that exist but are engulfed in their own myths-like the 76 gas station sign looming over a modern building like a moon. Cliché human acts both vulgar and mundane could also be considered one of these landscape pieces, an idea that I illustrate in my “shooting ourselves in the foot” series. Our empty moonlight streets and our empty actions are like the mythic creatures of today, except now we live in and around them.

 

© Louise O'Donnell 2012