American artist Orr Ambrose, born 1970, was raised in the foothills of South Carolina. Her early art education began at 8 years old with drawing classes at the Greenville County Museum of Art. From there she went on to receive private instruction and enroll in the Greenville Fine Arts Center. She attended the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, where she earned her BFA with a double major in Painting and Ceramics. Orr had her first solo exhibition at age 24 and was awarded a 3 year residency at Odyssey Center in Asheville, NC. She has been exhibiting in group and solo shows for 25 years. Most recently, her work has been shown at CPCC’s Ross Gallery, Charlotte, NC (2019), Converse College, Spartanburg, SC, (2017), Spartanburg Art Museum, Spartanburg, SC (2016), the Umstead Hotel, Cary, NC (2015), the Asheville Museum of Science, Asheville, NC (2015), and the Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC (2014).
Orr has lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2012.
I have worked for the past eight years on a series of paintings inspired by theories of cosmology, physics, and microbiology. Each time I listen to a lecture about the amazing forces found in our universe, or learn about the magnificent patterns displayed in microscopic particles, my heart soars with joy and awe. Many of these subjects are difficult to wrap your mind around because they involve such tremendous variations in scale or are known only through mathematics or chemistry. This encourages me to visualize in my work places we may never be able to see or areas that we may never visit. My paintings are playful explorations of the structure of nature and the overarching influence of fractal geometry. I use circles, variations of circles, line, and pattern to represent the substances of existence. Using these simple geometrical shapes, I build an environment much like a landscape and in much the same way atoms build matter or solar systems build galaxies. I reference cell structures, atomic particles, plants, coral reefs, microbes, and geological and cosmological design. In this way, my work draws on the parallels and consistencies found throughout the universe, regardless of size. In fact, my paintings are most fully experienced by viewing them up close and then again from a distance. I mix observation, theory, and fact, and combined with my imagination I hope to position the viewer into a three dimensional space constructed from it’s tiniest parts.
Each color palette is chosen to impart mood and spirit, as well as to provide shadow and highlight necessary for depicting three dimensionality. I randomly apply an underpainting of watery acrylic and the spontaneous blending of color allows natural forces to reveal actual phenomenon as process and create an initial space into which I can begin with my brush. It is into this space that I link shape and color, layer upon layer, line by line, molecule by molecule, creating a unique point of reference.
These paintings are an excellent opportunity to step outside of day to day existence and into a place of mystery, a place of play, a place built around imagined sensory information and a desire to make visible the invisible. As Carl Sagan once remarked, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”