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Eileen O'Donnell is a ceramic sculptor living in Baltimore, Maryland. She studied art and English literature at Saint Joseph's University (B.A. 1995) and received a B.F.A. in Three Dimensional Fine Art from Moore College of Art and Design in 2000. Eileen has always been fascinated with the art and mythology of ancient cultures. In her work she explores the intersection of nature, culture, religion, and the “other.” She has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions and juried shows. She has been a Louisiana ArtWorks NOLA artist in residence, and received a grant from Creative Capital. In 2018 she began teaching at the Baltimore Clayworks, where she also makes her work in the upstairs studio.
I am interested in exploring the way my experience of religion effectively separated me from others, and even parts of myself. Growing up in the Catholic Church, in an Irish Catholic family, I saw how beliefs were considered sacred and spilled over into political life. As I grew older, and searched for new ways to relate to the larger world, I found inspiration in ancient cultures and ritual objects. My work is a way for me to explore and challenge my relationship to “the other.”
I use the forms and titles of traditional religious objects in my sculptures as a foundation for my work. I've taken the idea of the tabernacle, as an object to house the sacred body and blood of Christ, and inserted my own content. In this way I am challenging the idea of who “belongs” there.
Much of the visual style of my work comes from my study of ancient ritual objects. I feel related to these artists of the past. I have been inspired particularly by Mayan ceramic vessels, Canaanite burial pods, Egyptian canopic jars, and Sumerian votive figures. My favorite works express a deep connection to our shared humanity and to the natural world. They transcend the culture in which they were created and connect us to each other on an emotional level.
In addition to drawing upon religious objects in my work, I have also been exploring more modern mythologies and popular stories. Recently, I have been integrating characters and colors from the story of Alice in Wonderland into my sculptures. I can relate to Alice, who has fallen into a world that does not make sense, and yet still struggles to find meaning. The white rabbit is also a sympathetic character- the “everyman,” who seems to embody the stresses of modern life as he serves his queen, attends obligatory social events, and multi-tasks his way into a perpetually harried existence.
My work has been a way for me to process the alienation of my past, and to challenge the beliefs that create boundaries between ourselves and the natural world.