Degrees of Hugh
Finding the passions of artist Hugh O’Donnell
Hugh O’Donnell seen here with his paintings in his studio in Washington
Photos by Stan Godlewski
Hugh O’Donnell is a painter and educator who divides his time between teaching as a professor at The School of Visual Arts in Boston and working in his studios in Washington. He is represented in Litchfield County by Morrison Gallery, a contemporary art gallery located in Kent, and recently exhibited work in a benefit show for the Washington Art Association at James Barron’s Gallery, also in Kent. He is the newly appointed exhibitions chair at the Art Association (WAA), where he hopes to create more exhibiting and sales opportunities for young emerging and professional artists in our community.
O’Donnell is passionate about his work as an educator, making reference to his workshops for children in Bantam, his students in Boston, and other work with the general public. His own work is about immediacy, process, and making art communicate. For him the key relationships are the dynamic between the haptic experience of traditional art-making and the electronic tools afforded by technology.
He shows a series of early charcoal drawings steeped in the experience of breathing, which inspired him to create something that expresses the endless struggle for light and space that goes on in multifarious ways throughout nature. This idea then became the set for a dance in collaboration with a choreographer, and then the basis for his company, Body Echo. The outcome of which is the creation of a vast digital print and motion graphic video portfolio and a fusion of scientific research and poetry. His projects range from paintings, large scale digital prints, to multi-media video walls.
In his collaborations with the US Military, and large companies like Verizon and Fuji film, he has created large-scale photographic installations. For Verizon he installed a sixteen foot high video wall consisting of eight screens which display a ten minute long looped film. He works with his clients to create images of the natural world that heighten perceptual experience. Arteries of a hand texture mapped over a moon, with an overlay of drawn branches were part of one particular installation. Some of his subjects include human genomes, jazz, light, and possibly quoted poems written in cursive script.
(Pictured with his work That Drives the Water Through the Rocks.)
He then brings his experience with private enterprise back into his teaching practice, where he has his students find corporate sponsorship for large-scale public works.
He tells a story, “I was once giving a talk at at the New York Studio School, and a student asked me, “Do you think your work’s therapy?” I said I never even thought about it. “You think it’s therapy,” he insisted. “So I said, well, I do it in order to save my life, quite frankly! I don’t do it to decorate the world. I want to do it, and come out of it understanding things better, you know?”