R. Onickel was born in 1963 and started her professional education at the Center for Creative Studies College of Art and Design in Detroit, Michigan. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she focused on figurative painting. She has participated in art fairs such as Chicago's well-known Around the Coyote, executed commissioned work for local restaurants and clubs, and sold several paintings to private collectors. In Detroit she showed work at the annual Dirty Show.
Ms. Onickel's favored subject is the erotic human figure, and her paintings frequently concentrate thematically on the connections between control, surveillance, and sensuality. She finds a great deal of expressive force in her use of color; her palette tends towards rich, saturated hues that seduce the viewer into an immediate and extended gaze. Once captured, however, the viewer is often presented with a set of deliberate uncertainties. Ms. Onickel frequently omits or abstracts facial detail. elongates proportions, reverses expected palette compositions, and juxtaposes the figures into indefinite or provocative situations.
Ms. Onickel believes this combination of techniques entice the viewer to confront, rather than merely observe, the issues she presents. She notes that when presented with an absent face or an unclear identity, the viewer will automatically place her or himself, or another psychologically significant person, in the work. Ms. Onickel thus capitalizes on a deftly handled marriage of beautiful colors and subjects which invite cognitive interpolation - the habit of "filling in the blanks"- to produce works that remain intellectually and aesthetically engaging long past the initial viewing.