Connor Dolan is a multidisciplinary artist born in Miami and raised in South Florida. He currently attends Washington University in St. Louis as a junior and studies fine art, art history, and archeology. At 14 years old he began four years of formal art training with Venezuelan artist Lucy Saenz, first in dry media, then in oil paint.
Connor’s portraiture often evokes vibrant despair. Using bright colors, he works to capture still, silent, and brooding subjects. Connor also works with medical and biological subject matter, as the mechanisms of life and the human body have fascinated him from a young age. Though portraiture has nearly always been the focus of his work, Connor also plays with degrees of abstraction in biological and medical representations of the human body. This type of artwork does not directly depict the traditional figure; it can represent byproducts of the human body or the body’s internal anatomy. Not only does he express these abstractions in traditional media such as oil paint, but he also uses alternative media to create portraits—which can include living things (such as bacteria and mold). Connor’s technical rendering skills in dry and wet media allow him a great deal of freedom to depict objects and people. However, he pushes his classical training into areas of surrealism with fantastical skin colors, invented anatomy, and imagined spaces. Separately, his training in high school and college level biology and lab procedures allows him to utilize complex scientific processes such as bacterial and fungal culturing in his art making.
Beauty, elegance, ignorance, and loneliness are all conveyed in his portraiture. The artist seeks to deliver a sense of nebulous unhappiness to the viewer, often despite clean, realistic, and colorful renderings. He achieves this through carefully arranged body language and facial expressions. Connor wishes to present his paintings in this way—unhappiness wrapped in an alluring package—in order to be better understood by the viewer. He wraps guilt, shame, and sadness in a shroud of careful technique and presents it to the audience, who first notice the technical execution and colors, then begin to feel the underlying emotion.
Connor’s work is influenced by Greco-Roman figure sculpture as well as Renaissance era depictions of the body’s anatomy (both internal and external). He looks to artists like Rembrandt as well, who vividly portrayed the human body realistically earlier in his career, and more stylistically with exposed and heavy brushstrokes which he used toward the end of his career. He also takes inspiration from Surrealists like Dali who painted invented space, form, anatomy, and color while still depicting dimensional subjects. Contemporarily, inspiration is found in Damien Hirst’s integration of science and biology in his work, and in Marc Quinn’s DNA portrait of Sir John Sulston.