DAILY ART FIX REVIEW: Paracosms – The Art of Larry and Sandra Ortega

Paired Works:

Larry and Sandra Ortega “Canyon Flowers”

It’s always satisfying to observe artists who continue to grow. Whether it’s pushing the boundaries within their habitual mediums, or branching out and applying their skills to new materials, aesthetic development reinforces how art emulates life in its will to thrive. When artists embrace the evolution of their creative processes, they provide a model for living more abundantly – a vital demonstration in a world currently dedicated to lockdowns and limitations.

I recently experienced an exhibition which displayed what happens when persistent focus and discipline is applied to recognized potentials. Paracosms: The Art of Larry and Sandra Ortega was the spring exhibit at the evolving space of Obliq Art, currently located in Sunnyslope, Arizona.

It wasn’t only the artwork that showed the strides these artists had made during the generalized 2020 paralysis. In Paracosms the concept of how an exhibit can be done was also scrutinized, suggesting a new approach for a possible post-commercial gallery art scene.

Larry and Sandra Ortega

Larry and Sandra Ortega

In earlier artworks, both Larry and Sandra worked extensively with the effects of light. They understand light as a spiritual quality. Larry’s cast resin sculptural pieces used translucency for atmospheric effects. Sandra’s pastel paintings often utilized shining gleams and reflections as focal points. In Paracosms, the use of light by the artists has reached intense new aspects. 

Larry’s pieces were formerly often geometric and iconic, classically ordered. However, Larry is also interested in movement, building off his experiences as a surfer in his earlier days: “Living in Hawaii added perspective to my ocean nature as an artist as it provided a vision from the tropical waters and creatures,” Larry explained. “Surfing became an endeavor of dancing with waves. As a consequence, I often think about riding the airwaves swirling in the canyon. I see hawks hovering above the jagged mountains and I want to join them.”

Larry found a way to add that dynamic by turning to the desert landscape. His structures have been enhanced with casts from organic elements such as aloe and agave. This addition of natural forms stirs the pieces which incorporate them. They deepen the mystery. The works could be bioluminescent deep sea crustaceans, or glowing alien species. The spikes and barbs displayed add a subtle menace to the smooth surfaces and appealing colors. The addition of exotic rare earth minerals create magical lingering glows, especially when exposed to UV light. This is artwork which looks amazing even in the dark, as they emit their own inner light when charged.

Larry Ortega “Prometheus 1” Mixed media


While Larry advanced in a medium he’s been working in for years, Sandra’s pieces were in a medium she only started working in relatively recently. Sandra described, “In 2018 I began another artistic direction, in the medium of cold wax & oil. The process of cold wax and oil is an exercise in very loose boundaries, color mixing, and mark making. The decisions of composition, color combinations and textures are in the planning process. The laying down of wax and oil layers has all the exciting possibilities.”

Sandra has applied this technique to her own evocation of desert landscape. Now her light becomes space and distance. There are enough tangible marks to ground her works as the earth and sky. The rich colors become the volatile atmosphere and the enduring terrain, a sense of vastness contained within a small space. The “Haboob” pieces refer to Arizona’s epic dust storms; Sandra shows their turbulence and grandeur.

Sandra Ortega “Earth, Wind, and Dust” cold wax and oil 18″ x 18″

Sandra Ortega “Above the Wind” cold wax and oil 18″ x 18″


In addition to showing recent individual works, this husband and wife pairing also made pairings out of their extremely different yet complementary offerings. It’s surprising how the colors and shapes, formed from such different processes and concerns, synchronize together.  

Larry and Sandra Ortega “Engulfed”


Paracosms was a public exhibit, but was installed in Larry and Sandra’s home. It’s an intriguing set up, as if the show was an extension of the ambiance of their living space. Experiencing the art where the artists live and work adds an intimacy not found in the white box of a mainstream gallery. What better way forward? As Larry describes,

“The pandemic accelerated the re-development of Obliq Art. Most importantly, version 3.0 utilizes our desert domain in more ways than in the past.

“Live events were canceled overnight and as a consequence art galleries, like all live event venues, closed the doors and canceled events. And then, temporarily closed became permanent.

“As a consequence, artists who use the art gallery platform as a means of selling work found themselves without a source of income. The trend in Phoenix and throughout the US the shrinking of traditional art venues especially the local art gallery showing local art. Closures came partly from gentrification in downtown Phoenix.

“The pandemic and the speed of technology accelerated the development of the digital platform. It widened a bridge to art, the artist, and the gallery. As a result, digital art galleries became like a retail version of Ghost Kitchens: The artist’s style and work could be viewed from a digital perspective and could be purchased with a few clicks of the mouse. Instagram replaced the in gallery viewing.

“What’s missing? What was missing is the art gallery personal visit. The opening night of a show is a social event.”

Larry and Sandra Ortega are now using their house as a combination live/work/display space, open to forming connections with the interested and interesting. What a great way for artists to find their audience.

Virtually Visit here: Obliq Art

Larry Ortega: The Alchemist in his Laboratory


RICHARD BLEDSOE is a visual story teller; a painter of fables and parables. He received his BFA in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. Richard has been an exhibiting artist for over 25 years, in both the United States and internationally. He lives and paints happily in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife Michele and cat Motorhead. He is the author of Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.


I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.


Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

ARTISTS: Fred Tieken and the AZ45


Fred Tieken “Bad Hair Day”

I first met artist Fred Tieken when my wife Michele Bledsoe and I were in an art show with him. It was February 2013, and “Changing Lanes” at Larry Ortega‘s Obliq Gallery was a memorable beginning to a new phase in all of our artistic careers.

In the years since that pop-up gallery experience, I’ve see Fred’s work continue to pop up all over the place here in Phoenix. In this he demonstrates the dynamic of a passionate artist: he is prolific, and he’s an exhibitionist-in the artistic context of the word. Art is a form of communication. It’s meant to be shared. Until a piece is experienced by viewers it remains unfinished in a way; the circuit is incomplete, the energy can’t flow. A responsible artist not only creates art, but does the necessary work to get their vision out into the world. Fred has expanded beyond the Valley of the Sun, also exhibiting in Miami, New York, and California.

Fred’s distinctive paintings, mixed media and installation pieces are exuberant, while at the same time built on solid compositional foundations. They also display a sense of humor, which is all too rare in the super serious visual arts. The joy and playfulness that went into their creation comes across without undermining the poise and craftsmanship of the work.


Fred Tieken “Prickly Pair”


Fred and Gail Tieken

Fred and his wife Gail Tieken have also been great supporters of the artistic community as well. Recently they invited 44 other Arizona artists to take part in a November show in their new Paradise Valley venue, the Tieken Gallery.

The Tieken Gallery


In between getting ready for this landmark event and preparing for an upcoming Los Angles solo show, Fred took some time to answer a few questions about art and life.

It seems your creativity led you explore many different forms of art in your career. What is your background, and when did you start making your current body of work?
Fred Tieken: I never had any art classes in high school but I did take drafting. I started right after graduation as a draftsman at an engineering company and worked there until I got fired for missing too much work. I had a popular rock band and we played on the road a lot so it was hard to do both. Getting fired from that job was the best thing that ever happened to me! I heard about an advertising agency that was looking for a commercial artist (that’s what graphic designers were called in those days) and applied for the job. I really hit it off with the agency owner and he taught me everything he know about graphic design. He was also a fan of my band so he didn’t care that I didn’t always show up for work so long as I got the projects done on time. So I worked as a commercial artist for the next 35 years, eventually starting my own firm along with Gail. We sold that business a few years back.

In 2010 I found out that my kidneys were failing and I would soon have to go on dialysis. The thought of that terrified me. Then Gail asked to be tested as a donor and we were a perfect match. During the time building up to the operation in which Gail gave me one of her kidneys I went out and bought some canvas and started painting to relieve the anxiety. My first painting was a kind of fantasy about the actual operation. A good friend brought the painting to my hospital room and the surgeons really got a kick out of it. I’ve been painting and making art ever since and can’t imagine not doing this.


Fred Tieken “Pass the Mayo”

How do you create your paintings-are they improvised, or planned out in advance?
FT: Both. Sometimes I do some sketching first, either by hand or on my iPad. Other times I have a really good idea of what I want to do and I just start laying it down. I think I have a good year’s worth of ideas in my head at any given time.

When is a painting complete?
FT: I usually quit when it feels right but sometimes I’ll come back the next day with fresh eyes and add or change something. It helps just to have the painting around so that I can walk by it and take a look every now and then when I’m not thinking too intensely about it. Occasionally I’ll just start all over after a few days.

How did you get inspired to create the AZ45 show?
FT: Gail and I wanted to do something special for the grand opening of our gallery. We kicked some ideas around and decided a group show of Arizona artists made the most sense. It’s our way of acknowledging all the talent in this area and the vibrant art community here in the valley. We invited 46 artists to participate, thinking that about half of those would be interested. Within two days we had 44 artists confirming participation! So, with myself included, that makes 45. Somewhere along the way the AZ45 identification just came to mind. I saw it as a logo in my head and started using it. I think the other artists like it too. It’s a visual that can be used going forward. It reinforces for  posterity that at this one point in time we all came together to celebrate art!


What does art do for people?
FT: I like the quote “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I’m not sure who first said that but I can’t say it any better.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an artist?
FT: I always try to channel my inner child. Children are all natural artists. Then we grow up and have people telling us that we can’t do certain things.


Fred Tieken “Bla Bla Bla”

EXHIBITION ANNOUNCEMENT – “Booked: Contemporary Literary Art” at The Trunk Space

Portrait of EG

Richard Bledsoe “Mark Twain’s The Portrait of Emmeline Grangerford”

acrylic on canvas 30″ x 24″

“I got sick and tired of all that Purity! Wanted to tell stories.”
-Philip Guston
Back in the day the genre of history painting was considered the highest form of art. That type of imagery included not only actual historical events but religious, mythological, and literary  scenes.
Modern art turned attention away from narrative forms towards more theoretical and abstract concerns, with the practical effect of losing a great portion of the general audience. Telling stories is the way we connect with one another, and the visual arts have suffered from this disregard for such a fundamental means of communication.
In February Remodern America and the Trunk Space present a group show which embraces the art of the story teller, and pays tribute to beloved authors whose works have moved us, inspired us, and enriched our lives.

Participating Artists:

Leslie Edeline Barton, Michele Bledsoe, Richard Bledsoe,

Stephanie Carrico, Anna Dufek, Annette Hassell, Clay Martin,

Joe Montano III, David Morgan, Larry Ortega, Shelley Whiting


Artwork Inspired By Favorite Books

February 2 – February 28. 2015

Opening Reception First Friday February 6, 2015 6pm

Third Friday Reception February 20, 2015 6pm


1506 NW Grand Ave

Phoenix, Arizona 85007