Having landed illustrative gigs with everyone from the New York Times Magazine to Rolling Stone and Playboy, Odom has distinguished himself as a leading commercial artist, thanks to his Art Deco-style figures wrought with energy and homoerotic tension. His works have appeared on book covers, including for a number of novels by Australian author and Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White. In 1991, however, Mel switched gears, channeling his passion for creation into the making of a Gene Marshall doll. A 1940s-era film noir ingenue, Gene was voted by collectors as the most important doll since Barbie.
Although it’s no surprise Odom has enjoyed success in every creative venture he’s embarked on since his arrival in New York in the 1970s. It’s the refreshing clarity he possesses, both in his art and IRL, that he describes as something that has less to do with knowing than with the understanding that not all things are meant to be known. As part of the city’s gay community, Odom survived the AIDS epidemic of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and it’s this very experience, among others, that has caused his energy to blossom into something so much larger—and visually striking.