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Kate O’Donnell


2. Installation view, Ken Lum_ Death and Furniture, Art Gallery of Ontario. Artworks © Ken

Art by Kate O’Donnell

Kate O’Donnell

sM | How do you maintain a fresh and artistic perspective when creating works with social or political relevance?

KO ── When I attempt to create something that acknowledges political events, I have a focus or a message I am trying to get across. Finding your own explicit focus for your work can help maintain a “fresh” perspective because it stems completely from your own take on a current social issue. In the past, I have created socially relevant works in which the focus derived from my emotional response to a current event. For example, in an artwork of mine entitled Thank You, I was filled with gratitude for healthcare workers who were working non-stop during the pandemic.

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sM | What did you learn from the process of live painting during your time as the Artist in Residence at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Minneapolis?

KO ── Firstly, I learned how to balance socializing and focusing. I talked to the guests but remembered not to get too distracted from my artwork. Eventually, I learned how to effectively paint and talk with people. It seemed the guests enjoyed watching me paint as I chatted too, which was a relief. Beyond this, I learned how to create many pieces in one day. Basically, I worked on at least five different projects at once. I had two big paintings, a flower pot, and multiple earrings that I constantly rotated through during the day. Adding to this, I also learned so much about the guests and which of my pieces were the most popular among them. I was so interested to hear everyone’s takes on my artwork, what it reminded them of, and how it made them feel. One woman cried looking at a painting!

sM | What is one social issue that your art speaks to the most?

KO ── I believe my art speaks to the issue of disconnection the most. I have quite a few paintings that I created in March 2020. I felt extremely disheartened by the forced separation at this time. I remember feeling a huge sense of hope when I saw imagery from Italy of people playing music, dancing, and singing from their balconies. They were all safely separated but still enjoying a sense of togetherness. From this image, I was inspired to create a painting called Connected from a Distance. It was inspiring to see that there were so many people doing their part to be safe, quarantine, and respect health guidelines in order to keep everyone safe.

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