You sure know Mel Odom, from his stunning illustrations that have been published on book covers and by major publishers internationally. His passion for art, illustrations, beauty and dolls, combined with a melancholy feeling make Mel one of the most unique and fascinating artists you will ever come across.
If you are lucky enough to be in New York at the moment or are planning to be there in February, you should certainly go see his first one-man show “Gorgeous” of drawings in NYC, which covers a span of approximately 44 years. The show is in New York City at the Daniel Cooney Fine Art gallery @ 508 West 26st., #9C till February 23. Many of the drawings were originally illustration assignments that have lived beyond their original intent and gathered a second content, based on time and the stormy social history they represent.
This show is basically your whole life displayed in a form of art diary somehow. How do you see your style has changed/ developed over the years? And what do you think are the elements that are always there from day 1?
There’s always been a certain oddness to my drawings, whether it’s in the proportions or features or context of the figures. I always tried to include questions in the image. My illustration work, which stared in 1975, has a certain immediacy about it, even if there is a healthy amount of time consuming technique in the finished piece. My color sense was also based on my being partially color blind and my using colors I was familiar with. I think these things are why my drawings work.
This is your first solo exhibition. But you are an artist who has done so much and worked on unbelievable projects, and you have some big fans. How come you never had a solo show before?
This is my first show of just drawings. I had a show of paintings a couple of years ago, but my drawings are what most people know me for. I’ve also been in a number of group shows over the years. This exhibit just sort of ‘happened’. I met Daniel Cooney at an opening one night at his gallery and a few days later he came to my studio. We got along well and when he offered me a show I said yes. This was at the end of October. Since then we’ve both been busy getting things ready for the show. I like it when things have an energy behind them. There’s no time to over-think things.
I collaborated with Qasimi menswear back during the summer for several of my drawings to be used on their A/W 2019 line. The collection hit the catwalk five days before the gallery show opened. The two things happening so close together caused a great frisson of press that couldn’t have been better timed. But little of it was planned so much of it happened in the form of good fortune and timing.
How did it feel standing in the gallery and having all your work of 40 years look back at you? Was this as overwhelming as it sounds?
I was overwhelmed to say the least. I was visiting the gallery to see the show for the first time in private and give notes on the dates and titles and such. Daniel Cooney, the owner and namesake of the gallery was there but no one else. I was stammering and stuttering and unable to even write the simplest of notes. I hadn’t expected to be so discombobulated by seeing all of these drawings together, hanging in a gallery. I told Dan it was like seeing pages from my diary, but out of order. I was glad we were alone and I left pretty quickly. I walked a long way after that to clear my head and figure out what had happened. My past had caught up with me. Luckily I was more together the night of the opening and had a great time. All the drawings together seem like a lot and yet not enough.
If you could pick one piece at the show that you would say is the one that’s closest to you, which one would it be and why?
I would have to say “Crown of Wings”. I did it for myself after doing a related drawing for a men’s cologne. I was dealing with the loss of too many friends to illness and this drawing became a farewell image, a small monument to the lost. The wings were added to the thorns as a way of mitigating the sadness. I don’t know what I specifically believe in spiritual matters, but I know that my work, in service of beauty, has saved me time and time again. This drawing was an expression of that.
How did you pick the name of your show, ”Gorgeous”? And what and who would you say is ”gorgeous” to you? In a broader sense.
I use the word ‘gorgeous’ frequently to comment on something or someone I think beautiful. As a word it’s a bit archaic as well as having a certain camp association. And yet it’s also describes something that’s a bit more than just beautiful. Gorgeous is definitely my goal whether or not I always achieve it. When I ran the name “Gorgeous” by Daniel Cooney, he immediately loved it.
New York City is filled with gorgeous people, all races and combinations of races trying their best to stand out, or blend in, or hide. If you’re bored here you need a new planet. And so much in nature is gorgeous, just beyond one’s logic. It’s all there if you look for it.
What would you like to do next?
I want to do a book of my collected work. I’d like to start with childhood drawings and go to the present, just the best of it. I have drawings that go back to when I was 5. That would be fun. I’d name it GORGEOUS.
Daniel Cooney Fine Art gallery