Mel Odom is one artist definately worth mentioning. A modern day master of Art Nouveau who manages to blend perversity with innocence & from it, produces something beautiful. I can highly recommend getting your hands on his stunning book ‘Dreamers’, which offers a tantalizing glimpse into his illustrations, masks, dolls & drawings.
Fantasies & whims are of the essence here, & he explores classic ‘symbols’ in art such as, angels & hermaphrodites with a zeal which will have you hungering for more. Timeless in their beauty & essence, I would probably wallpaper my entire bedroom with his work if I could afford it!
One thing that must be mentioned is the eyes of the characters he paints….oh THOSE eyes…liquid, seductive & phatasmic in their might! He inspired an 11 yr old me to put pen to paper! I could never escape the fabulous urge to recreate those magnetic orbs, usually depicted in a haunting liquid grey…but never quite grasped it. They truly are unique to the man himself, & I believe he has done for eyes what Georgia O’Keefe did for her detailed erotic flowers!
He is proudly symbolic of the often stunning world of ‘art with gay sensibilities’. The style which he developed epitomizes the 1980’s in the same way that Aubrey Beardsley epitomizes the 1890’s, & in their way they have a similar atmosphere – fairy tale milieu, snaking sensuous line work & ideals of recherche pleasure! However, unlike Beardsley, Odom has the enjoyable freedom of producing work in a social era where Gay liberation has been on the lips of most appreciative audiences.
Mel Odoms mask work, whether the hand painted models or the illustrated works of art, are something to behold! Wandering blissfully between creating mask-like faces & face like masks, Odom breathes poetry into these strongly symbolic props. From the classic cliche of cracked faces to eyes that radiate pure beams of light. He does so in such a way as to avoid & overide the cliched mode & creates something hauntingly strong! I would strongly advise viewing them.
I feel that today, illustration is being recognised & appreciated in the world of apparent ‘Real Art’ & its about time too! I will forever fight the corner of illustrator v. artist & its blurry lines, especially in todays current scene. My personal feelings are that since Duchamps ‘Fountain’ one can but grin about the rules of art…how can the arguement even EXIST after that wonderful & precocious display! …and anyhow, I think that there is just as much in the way of aesthetic notion, cultural tradition & symbolic meaning in an illustration even if its bl**dy Rupert The Bear or a graphic novel such as The Watchmen…Just think about it, they both contain memorable images evocative of a time frame & period of history that conjure up emotional reactions…whether its the innocence of childhood in Rupert or the stark contrasts of 1980’s America & its contemporary governemnt anxieties! I am both a lover of graphic novels & comic books in their many guises & if Andy Warhol & Lichtenstein are called ‘artists’ then so should Dave Gibbons & Mary Tourtel…but I’ll save that rant for another day 😉
I shall lead out on a note of where Mel Odoms illustrations featured, mainly being used by the likes of Playboy, Blueboy & Penguin as illustrations of stories & advertisements. They dominate in their production & gentle strength, as they seem to stand apart from their intended function & rebelliously refuse to comply to their purpose….yet somehow manage to do as they are told! the most perfect artistic oxymoron I have yet come across!
I shall leave you now to investigate this fascinating man & his work further & hope that my gate crashing introduction to him, provides you with a pleasent appetite for his sleeping androgynes & entrancing sybarites!
May his imagery linger long in your dreams!!!