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
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.
Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience
My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.
Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART
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