Odom was born in Richmond Virginia and grew up in Ahoskie, North Carolina, where his parents nurtured his interests in drawing and in dolls. He majored in fashion illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University and pursued some graduate studies in England before moving to New York City in 1975.
His distinctively elegant Art Deco-like style quickly established him as a successful commercial artist, at first via erotic illustrations for sexually-oriented magazines such as Blueboy, Viva, and Playboy, the last of which named him their "Illustrator of the Year" in 1980. In the same year, he provided the cover art for Edmund White's novel Nocturnes for the King of Naples, which opened his path to a wider audience.
During the 1980s, his work achieved success in many commercial media. He created album covers for CBS Records and book covers for numerous other novels, usually in the genres of fantasy, mystery, or horror. He provided illustrations for the science/science-fiction magazine OMNI and (in 1989) a front cover for Time magazine. He also received professional recognition from his peers, receiving the Society of Illustrators's Gold Medal (Editorial category) in 1982 and a Silver Medal (Book category) in 1987. He has exhibited his work in New York City at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and the Society of Illustrators.
Mel Odom is an American artist who has created covers for numerous novels, notably for fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay such as The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, and The Lions of Al-Rassan. Odom was also the designer of the Gene Marshall fashion doll. He celebrated his 19 years together with his partner Charlie Saputo, whom he married in New York City on July 3, 2013. "In Mel Odom's world the perverse has become at last a candid pleasure...a vision of utopia" Edmund White
Mouth to Mouth or Arrangement, 1979, Blueboy Magazine
Edmund White wrote in his Introduction to Dreamer: "Mel Odom's work represents an original synthesis of...two moments in the history of taste: a recuperation of art-nouveau perversities of the past but in a shiny, shadowless, innocently hedonistic space....In Mel Odom's world the perverse has become at last a candid pleasure...a vision of utopia."
In 1990, he designed a cosmetic facepaint for Mdvanii, a 25cm limited-edition collector's fashion doll. Although his design was ultimately not used for Mdvanii's actual production, the experience renewed his childhood interest in dolls and led him to create a doll of his own, the 15.5" Gene Marshall.
Gene Marshall's appearance, wardrobes, and elaborate backstory are modelled on the glamour of Hollywood's golden age from the 1920s through 1950s. The doll made its commercial debut at the 1995 Toy Fair and was an immediate success, creating a wider market for large, fully-articulated collector's fashion dolls in contrast to the slightly smaller and less flexible Barbie doll. Since then, Odom has largely concentrated his professional pursuits on the Gene Marshall doll, regularly modifying her design to create new variations and creating similar companion dolls to share her world, such as Gene's "co-stars" Madra Lord, Violet Waters, and Trent Osborn.
Odom continues to attend doll collectors' conventions to make personal appearances and buy dolls for his own collection, as well as to support charitable causes. Of his early friends in the art world, he estimates that two-thirds of them died of AIDS in the 1980s before the awareness and treatment of the disease became better known. At a 1997 doll convention entirely devoted to Gene Marshall, a charity auction of uniquely modified Gene dolls raised more than $30,000 for Gay Men's Health Crisis, an AIDS service organization.
The Red Kiss, 1989, Lithograph on paper, 37" x 28", Private collection
Japan Gays, Illustration for an article on Homosexuality in Japan
Maske (Face with flower), 1980, 7" x 4" 1/4
Untitled (Yakuza 2), 1980, 10" 3/4 x 10", Private collection
Hard Stuff, 1985, Pencil, dyes and gouache on paper, 16" x 13", Collection of the artist
Richard Adams, Maia, ©1986 Signet
Anne Rice, Belinda
Guy Gavriel Kay, The Darkest Road, ©1986 ROC
Edmund White, Nocturnes for the King of Naples
Nancy Collins, Sunglasses After Dark, ©1989 Onyx
Item # 92062, Slender Threads, Gene Marshall® Dressed Doll, Gene Marshall Convention XIII Exclusive, Limited Edition of 300
Item # 92065, Blue Horizon, Gene Marshall® Dressed Doll, Gene Marshall Convention XIII Exclusive, Limited Edition of 300
Item # 92067, All About the Eyes, Gene Marshall® Dressed Doll, Gene Marshall Convention XIII Exclusive, Limited Edition of 300
Item # 92064, Cocktail Hour, Studio Wardrobe Collection (Costume Only), Gene Marshall Convention XIII Exclusive, Limited Edition of 300
Item # 92043A, Dripping Moonlight, Gene Marshall® Dressed Doll (Table Centerpiece), Gene Marshall Convention XIII Exclusive, Limited Edition of 125
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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