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Art and Aesthetic Aces: Johannah O’Donnell is a Big Believer in Sincerity in Art


Johannah O’Donnell creates explosive, vibrant paintings in acrylic on wood panel, using neon color schemes with rich multi-layered backgrounds. Though the paintings are primarily portraits that question our collective view of beauty, her panels are also rich with existential sub themes.

Her paintings portray young women placed before elements of nature – trees, mossy green lawns, and starry backdrops. You will also find silhouettes of animals such as sparrows, elk and bats. Layered into the backgrounds are patterns like cheetah print, a tangled web of graffiti style arrows, dripping paint, or a repetition of stars and circles. Menacing images such as a skull or hands with a mouth in the palm bearing a devilish tongue may appear along the perimeter.

Her latest creations portray hybrid human animal figures, such as a guy striking a relaxed pose in a v-neck sweater who happens to have a wolf head and a girl with a drink, a smile and whiskers. She says, “I have a soft spot for invented creatures, animals that don’t exist outside of the realm of human imagination. To me, they’re the mascots of the artistic mind.”

As to why she paints fantasy, she says, “I think I’m drawn to it the same way I’m drawn towards heavy metal music. It’s nerdy and sincere. It’s art without irony – pure enthusiasm, imagination, and talent. I’m a big believer in sincerity in art. Sarcasm and irony are just self-defense mechanisms, a way to keep others at a distance. I have no interest in art that alienates the viewer.”