Kate O’Donnell Transforms Home, Life Through Art

‘Dancing Poppies’ painting by Kate O’Donnell.

‘Sitting Still’ painting by Kate O’Donnell.

By Mandy Marksteiner

Kate O’Donnell, producer of the Reel Deal Theater preshow, has lived in a beautiful home on Bathtub Row for seven years. She and her husband Jim O’Donnell have restored that home to regain its historic integrity and be an inspiring place to live.

Their guiding principle for the remodel has been “Everything needs to touch you in some way.”

Before World War II, the house was the arts and craft building for the Boy’s ranch. Since then, famous people like Enrico Fermi and Norris Bradbury have inhabited it.

The original architect was John Gaw Meem, who is famous for designing the addition to the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.

“When we moved here the house had been remodeled in an inauthentic way,” O’Donnell said. “There was old-fashioned linoleum glued to the hardwood floors. It didn’t have the style and beauty of an old house.”

She applied warm inviting colors to the plain pine walls and kept the original tin chandeliers that the boys made.

“I like them,” she said. “They represent what the house was like.”

They made the house their own by hanging art

O’Donnell’s husband is a photographer who values having art in the house.

“It has taken me a while to understand the importance of buying art. People almost feel guilty buying art, even though they want to do it,” she said. “But now I want to continue adding to my collection. When you find something beautiful, it makes you feel good.”

The living room has her husbands photos and the paintings that she fell in love with and bought.

“I look at my paintings over and over again and they make me daydream,” O/Donnell said.

Since she started painting about 10 years ago, more of her own paintings are on the walls.

Learning to paint helped her nurture an important friendship

“I always felt the need to express myself artistically, but life got in the way,” O’Donnell explained. “Then a friend of mine, Shawn Mohoric, said that she was going to an art workshop. I wanted to spend some time with that friend. So we attended a ‘plein air’ landscape workshop in Taos.”

Since that first workshop, O’Donnell and Mohoric have attended workshops together at least once a year. Studying art has made it possible to maintain and expand their friendship. It gives them something to focus on. They study with the same masters and understand each other’s efforts. They’re developing at the same rate and can help and support each other.

Spending time on art also helped her reconnect with her creative side

“As an entrepreneur, I was getting wrapped up in trying to make everything work. You give give give and work work work. You spend your whole life pushing, but painting allows you to slow down and puts you into a meditative state,” O’Donnell said. “Since I started painting, I’m more appreciative of things. I take more time to observe beauty. I notice the way the light hits something. I notice nuances of color. It makes me slow down. Now that my kids have grown, I don’t have an excuse not to set time aside for myself. It has become more important and necessary to find that time.”

In addition to the workshops that O’Donnell has attended throughout the southwest, she has taken classes from local artists Karen Wray and Janice Parker Muir.

“Karen has been very supportive of my art and has given me great ideas for development. She’s also very encouraging,” she said. “I never would have tried to display my work in a gallery, but Karen encouraged me. I displayed four pieces in the Student Art Show last fall and three of them sold. It made me want to paint more! It felt so good to know that someone found what I did to be beautiful.”

Kate O’Donnell’s paintings are available in Los Alamos at Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery, 1475 Central Ave, Suite 125. Visit www.karenwrayfineart.com for more details.

‘Morning Blues’ painting by Kate O’Donnell.

‘Sangiovese’ painting by Kate O’Donnell.

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