Falmouth library exhibit communicates emotions through art

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FALMOUTH — Artist Judy O’Donnell speaks volumes through her artwork.

Articulating emotions and beliefs through her use of color, texture and composition, she brings her thoughts to life in the collages, paintings and sculptures that are born from a concept, but created through experimentation and a willingness to allow them to evolve. Like a wide-eyed child peering down the length of a kaleidoscope, fascinated by each new pattern, O’Donnell shuffles the bits of a collage until she finds the one combination that speaks not only to her, but for her, then quickly cements it into permanence.

“Mindscapes” is a collection of about 40 of O’Donnell’s works at the Falmouth Memorial Library. It’s an appropriate setting, since her works are her words and her most heartfelt means of communication.

An art educator for more than 20 years, O’Donnell has spent the last five years working from her Falmouth home studio.  Some of her more recent work has brought her to a place of healing through the pain of an eight-year battle with breast cancer. Though she is still reluctant to share much of her ordeal verbally, she has documented her journey through a diary of her art, full of raw emotions and self-discovery.

“I was trying to release some anxiety,” she said. “Some of the darker work did not go into the library exhibit.”

A strong theme in O’Donnell’s work is nature. A self-described outdoors person, O’Donnell emphasized, with almost spiritual reverence, the importance of caring for and listening to nature and its lessons.

Much of her work depicts animals or insects, some with the bright colors she said were inspired by the children she used to teach. But, as she describes her work, the layers of her intent become apparent – what at first glance is simply a rabbit or a bird becomes a mechanism of seeing the world in a fresh, honest way.

In a work entitled “Buddha Bunny,” on display in the children’s room, the rabbit is “sitting quietly looking at bugs,” O’Donnell said. While that is what children will see, for O’Donnell it’s the chance to observe nature through the animal’s eyes.

Bees are the subject of several of her works, born from the scare a few years back that the honey bees were disappearing. She said she was inspired to create the bee pictures from her desire to show appreciation for nature “because it’s fragile.”

“We’re guests here; don’t stomp too hard,” she said.

“I do it in a funny, loving kind of way, but it’s a warning – it’s fragile,” she said.  “It’s a deep feeling – I feel honored to be a part of nature.”

Often, O’Donnell must struggle between her worlds of nature and the technology of her art, trying to “make peace” between the two. But their juxtaposition, like the conflict in any good story, adds power and meaning to her work. And perhaps her willingness to follow the lead of each piece and follow her instincts as she creates adds to her works’ personality.

One summer, while she was supposed to be painting in preparation for an art show, O’Donnell said she stopped and sculpted for three months instead.

“I get ideas and they gnaw at me – that idea has to be done first,” she said. “I follow what I feel. What you see in art, it’s more of a gut feeling – what it wants to be.”

“Mindscapes” will be on exhibit at the library through Nov. 15.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.