Rachel O’Donnell

:: AGE

25

:: LOCATION

Los Angeles, California, USA

:: MEDIUM

Painting (all mediums: oil, acrylic, gouache etc)

:: IDENTIFIES AS

cis female

As a womxn, why do you think it is important to create?

I think the art world and culture in general has been so oversaturated and shaped by one perspective that it has been severely limited. By making work as a womxn, anything you make is inherently radical since it’s not from the perspective of a heterosexual cis-male artist. That being said, I make art because I’m an artist, not because of my gender.

What has been your proudest moment as an artist/creative?

It’s always exciting to have people connect with your work, especially when they’re someone you admire artistically. A writer from The New York Times saw my work at Bushwick Open Studios and called my work ‘fearless’, which makes me melt with happiness. I’ve also had the great pleasure of filming an interview for Rose McGowan’s Army of Thought series this year which was such an honor. She truly wants to promote women in the arts and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. A woman after my own heart!

How do you define love?

I can’t even attempt to answer this question. It’s such a nebulous thing and changes form depending on the circumstances and people involved.  The older I get, the more complicated the definition becomes, I guess that’s how life works.

What is the space that you like to create in?

I’m very private about making work. I always like to make sure I’m alone so I can become enraptured in the process without any distractions. I generally hang all my works on top of each other on the walls surrounding me, old Salon style, so they all stare back at me as I work.

What do you like to listen to while you create?

It really depends! I think that as an artist your senses are very permeable when you make work so I always make sure its something that fits with what I’m making. So it can really range from anything, I’ve painted with “Mommy Dearest” playing in the background or I’ve got a weird Kendrick Lamar/Amy Winehouse mix ready to go.

What’s your earliest memory of making art?

My memory is not the best, but I have vague memories of a kid’s size plastic easel that I used to finger paint on when I was 5. It was one of the few instances where I was able to focus and sit, a rare occurrence for a child that was like likened to a ‘hurricane’ and usually running ‘100 miles per hour in every direction’.

What advice would you give your young self?

You’re stronger than you think, smarter than you think and far braver than you can imagine. Don’t settle for less just because someone tells you to.

What social issues do you care about most?

Human rights (the right to education, access to healthcare, freedom from abuse + violence, etc)! No one is free until we are ALL free!

What could you not live without?

Beauty (in all its forms), Coca-Cola + my pet rabbit, Bobby the Brown Bunny.

What or who keeps you inspired?

I think as an artist, you’re always chasing something; whether it’s trying to pin down a vision or communicate those feelings that lack verbal articulation. I think it’s that hunger that keeps you inspired to keep creating. I am also very lucky to be surrounded by a group of friends that inspire me and encourage me to keep going.

Who is an artist/creative who inspires you?

There are so many! I know that sounds like a canned response, but it’s really not. I’m a big fan of Josephine Baker. Her level of success and artistic prowess during the 1920s despite the horrific racism and sexism of the time is a true indication of her character and talents. I also admire her ability to bring joy and fun into a world that can be so bleak and depressing. Believe it or not, she helped the French Resistance as well during WWII. A true hero on many levels!

What do you think are some ways to strengthen/celebrate the community of womxn who are artists/creatives?

I was recently asked this question for another interview so I think I’ve finally come up with a more thought-out answer (but no promises). We live in a world where money does the most amount of talking, for better or for worse, so I think in order for womxn to be able to operate on the same platform as men, art collectors have to start buying more work from female artists. Plain and simple. Once that starts happening, galleries will finally start fully embracing work from womxn. The art business is really intimidating and for a long time it really turned me off to the point where I didn’t want to make work. You have to realize that the art business is an extension of the current culture where womxn and their point of view are not valued.

As someone who can’t afford to buy major artwork, I think the best way to support and celebrate womxn artists is to attend their shows and share their artwork. Even if you’re just increasing the number of people at a fellow artists’s opening, that’s a big deal and will go a long way with the gallerists’ view of the artist. Go see female directed films, see female musicians perform, support, support, support! Womxn are each others allies in this industry, so act accordingly.

Dear Rachel, your dynamic and iconic paintings pop with all colors of the rainbow. Thank you for sharing your perspective on supporting womxn not just through buying artwork, but by sharing work and support by attending each other’s shows. Let us know if you are ever showing in the Bay Area or San Diego! We’d love to meet you.