The Art of Stephen O’Donnell

1 - C'est mon chapeau - acrylic on panel - 24x18 - 2013 full

C’est mon chapeau, Acrylic on panel, 2013, 24 X 18

2 - Dans la pièce d'après - acrylic on panel - 30 x 24 - 2014 full

Dans la pièce d’après, Acrylic on panel, 2014, 30 X 24

3 - Infanta - acrylic on panel - 30x24 - 2014 full

Infanta, Acrylic on panel, 2014, 30 X 24

4 - Les Amis, les amants - acrylic on panel - 36 x 24 - 2014 full

Les Amis, les amants, Acrylic on panel, 2014, 36 X 24

5 - The Judgement of Paris - Aphrodite - acrylic on panel - 24x24 - 2014 full

The Judgement of Paris – Aphrodite, Acrylic on panel, 2014, 24 X 24

6 - The Judgement of Paris - Athena - acrylic on panel - 24x24 - 2014 full

The Judgement of Paris – Athena, Acrylic on panel, 2014, 24 X 24

7 - The Judgement of Paris - Hera - acrylic on panel - 24x24 - 2014 full

The Judgement of Paris – Hera, Acrylic on panel, 2014, 24 X 24

About the Artist

Stephen was always known as the “artistic child”; from earliest youth he was always drawing, making pictures. His father was in the Air Force, so his family moved all the time, and in all the many schools he attended being an artist was his entire identity. When it came time to choose to go to college or not, Stephen rebelled against the artist label and moved to San Francisco and did everything but make art; he sang semi-professionally, designed costumes for theater, taught performance workshops, etc. But eventually, after having returned home to Portland, at the advanced age of thirty-seven he began his art career: he walked into a gallery, showed the owner his work, and two months later he had his first show.

As a painter, Stephen is entirely self-taught; his “art education” has come from pictures in history and art books. In many fairly obvious ways, he’s not really a “modern artist”; he paints the world of old paintings. And he’s not at all an artist who paints the world around him; the goal isn’t to paint a tree that looks like a tree, but one that looks like a painting of a tree.

He almost always employs the self portrait as the basis for his work. Stephen has always felt that, by beginning with himself as the model, he is able to avoid the biggest limitation of the portrait as a form: that it is “about” someone specific. In his paintings, because the portrait is only of the artist, the viewer, while including whatever they might perceive of the artist, still has more opportunity to find their own narrative in whatever visual scenario he might present.

A play of gender is the most recognizable aspect of Stephen’s work; he is often referred to as the “man in a dress” artist. He’s always asked why – politically or psychologically – he chooses to portray himself this way. The simplest way to explain it is that the feminine is a large part of his gender identity. And then, women’s clothes are just a whole lot more interesting visually, and a lot more fun to paint!

Since 2006, he’s been married to writer and graphic designer Gigi Little. They live in Portland with their dog, Nicholas.


Currently, you can see Stephen’s art in person at three places:

Until August 30, 2014, at the Winston Wachter Gallery in Seattle, Washington

By request at the Froelick Gallery in Portland, Oregon

At the Portland Art Museum in their permanent collection


Online, you can see more of Stephen’s art at

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