The artists included in Orange Alert: Espiritu all make the unseen visible. They honor hidden identities, give voice to 100-year-old letters, express emotion through lush color and brushwork; translate poetry into visual data, or show weather and time through drawn and sanded marks.
These artists all live in Orange County, some for decades, others for just a year or two. They come from Greenwood Lake, Sugar Loaf, Goshen, Cornwall-on-Hudson, and Newburgh. They have exhibited in venues such as Mass MoCA, Gallery Aferro, and LACMA. They paint, draw, take photographs, and create multimedia installations. By bringing these artists together, I intend to showcase the rich variety of artwork being made across Orange County.
The original idea of P.U.G. Projects’ Orange Alert was to create a venue to exhibit abstract and conceptual works made by local artists who were well known outside of Orange County, but had rarely exhibited close to home. Now twelve years later, Orange County residents can see a wide variety of artwork at newly established venues, including pop-up galleries and performance spaces. My motivation this time has shifted to promote cross-pollination. I want to bring together artists from across the county, young and old, newbies and long-time residents, to meet each other and share their art with the larger community. Click their names below for links to their websites.
I truly enjoyed thinking and writing about the powerful work in this exhibition. Each artist demonstrates a profound commitment to their practice. I am especially grateful to the owner of 10 Carpenter AVENUE (not street), Madeline Trezza, who has been so helpful with each step of the installation. This amazing space is for rent, so spread the word!
Thanks also to Orange County Tourism for their enthusiastic support.
This project is made possible in part with funds from the County of Orange and Orange County Tourism.
Olivia Baldwin’s lush paintings seem to play with duality. They are beautifully messy, full of gorgeous brushwork and luminous color, yet also splatters, scratches and even the occasional crack. Simultaneously ambitious and casual, her paintings would be at home on the walls of a Brooklyn loft or a New England farmhouse. In fact, Baldwin grew up in New England, yet her color palette glows with California light reminiscent of the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Allowing whatever landscape surrounds her to soak into her studio practice, Baldwin riffs on a seemingly neon cartography. Her titles suggest places or narrative moments, prompting examination of these abstractions for hints of meaning. In short, these works are a visual banquet. They embody a “joie de vivre,” a spirit of creative vivacity and play that permeates the viewer’s experience.
Bill Kooistra finds inspiration from the landscape around Goshen. The works exhibited here come from his investigations of the fields near his home. We often think of landscape as vistas, but Kooistra tilts our gaze downward to suggest the play of wind and rain across the grasses and brambles of a winter field. These works are physical. His marks scatter across the paper and knit into dense patches of tangled line. The expressive way Kooistra draws bear witness to his hand making the mark at particular place and time. The artist is indeed present. The smaller abstractions included in the exhibition evolve from a different process, although still inspired by nature. Looking at shell fragments, Kooistra builds layers, lightly sands away portions, and rebuilds, creating “ghost marks” that suggest history and impermanence. In this sense, these two groups of works describe complementary methods of the same creative investigation of time, place and mark-making.
Peter A. Campbell’s installation is inspired by a trove of letters David Freund, a photographer, collector, and 2010 PUG Projects alum, shared with him. Responding to an ad in the 1916 Pittsburgh Press of a man looking for a suitable wife, women wrote brief letters introducing themselves. Campbell acknowledges the difficulty of re-presenting their words. The gulf of history creates an impassable divide even as the letters offer a glimpse into the lives of the women who wrote them. Considering this, Campbell creates this installation to place the past and the present beside each other. Viewers see present day Pittsburgh and its surroundings while concurrently hearing the letters read as performers re-enact their writing. In this sense, Campbell evokes the spirit of the past through the lens of our present experience. Playing on the taciturn directive, “You can’t get there from here, “ Campbell suggests that perhaps, with enough imagination, you actually can.
Joshua and Alaina Enslen create an “intertextual history” of the Brazilian poem Song of Exile, written in 1843 by Antonio Goncalves Dias. Although less known in the US, it is one of the most imitated poems of all time, inspiring thousands of parodies and pastiches. Because Song of Exile glorifies Brazilian landscape and culture, it has been used both for nationalist causes and as a way to criticize the government. With the advent of the internet, its use has skyrocketed. The works exhibited here are a portion of a multimedia installation the Enslens have created in Portugal. Their art depicts information collected from search engines and social media platforms, representing literally thousands of data points. Some pieces reference the cool detachment of minimalist art. Others suggest the lyrical quality of the poem’s primary metaphor, a bird. The poem starts and ends as an abstraction. It is language made into data, which in turn the artists transform into visual art. The Enslens make beautiful abstractions that reveal Song of Exile’s longevity and influence.
Beginning in 2009, VincentCianni traveled across the United States for three-and-a-half years to over 21 states making photographs and recording oral histories of gay military personnel. The resulting project Gays in the Military includes nearly 120 active duty service members and veterans of different ages, races, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds who served in every branch of the military. Either photographed alone, with family, or among objects that attest to their former lives, we observe them while listening to or reading their stories. Together they reveal the devastating effects of the policy that banned gays in the military and the continued harassment before, during and even after DADT. At times surrounded by medications, medals, or souvenirs from far away deployments, these service men and women gaze back at us with undeniable dignity. Finally being recognized for who they are and what they have suffered under the gay ban, the people depicted in Gays in the Military bravely share their stories to attest to their ongoing battle for justice. Cianni’s deeply moving project has brought national attention to their cause. In addition, the portraits and oral histories he has collected are now published in the book Gays in the Military and are archived at Duke University.