Finding your place: 3 Artists

Roger & Natalie
Astoria artists Roger Hayes and Natalie Orr

Eva Kirk, Natalie Orr, Lulu Quinn
Roger Hayes Writes/Curates

Opening at KALA
April 14 – May 1

ARTISTS TEND to create micro-environments. Generally this is informed by their milieu, which creates the defining aesthetic tenets. Here in Astoria we start out with a setting that is highly conducive to the creative process, but understanding its’ characteristics is what sets it apart. The milieu is rife with art, and there is a healthy amount of cross fertilization from artists who’ve arrived here with a vision. I like to think that we are living at a particularly fecund moment, when some defining characteristics of ego are laid by the wayside, and group reflection is encouraged.

In starting this show we played with the idea of the eternal return, the attraction of our small metropolis, what brings folks back here, and what generates the first appeal that captures new comers fancy, and the rebirth of a city, which is perhaps always latent. Longing for place is a key part of the defining search of nascent growth.

Within the Romantic cannon, the eternal return could be called a longing for place. Early Twentieth-Century Expressionists, Die Brucke, and Der Blaue Reiter conveyed this effectively. This was the first kernel concept for this show, beginning with the Expressionist/ Romantic leanings of Natalie Orr’s art, as it displays an affinity for Chromatic Futurism, and a bucolic sense of the inherent power of nature.

What becomes revealed in Natalie’s art is a dialectic of external, internal, objective, and subjective, that is like a protective armor, that contains a consuming flame; again a Nietzschean reference to the poles of creation and destruction.

Landscape Use
Natalie Orr, Landscape Use

NATALIE: “The viewer is engulfed in flames. The culture ingrained in me is intrinsic. There is a hierarchical difference where sameness and difference are not as accurate. The two become balance. The artist accesses the observer of “myself”, as a type of ego solidification…an embrace of the observer…this is not ego currency. The ego receives and expels for free, a selective experience. Sameness in the flames, hiding in the flames, the same perceptual mode that can’t be measured”.

Natalie refers to both the work, and its process, as “the spark of creativity within (which) ignites, producing energy. You hide yourself in the flames, and build a bed of clues… (you) fall into the flames, recognizing (the) validity of the observant perspective. Deus ex machina”. The viewer becomes inextricably involved in the works’ existence.

And also as a testimony to the worth of the work, “art is a problem solved spiritually. A journey that goes nowhere, but feels as its primary accomplishment”. We can look at “will to power”, but there seems to be a larger fabric from which the players are sewn, especially as Natalie cites “the Heraclitan cosmic child, who plays on without preference to outcomes”.

The inverse of this spectrum shows a charged cityscape, which was also a primary source of interest with Neue Berliners such as Otto Dix, Max Beckman, G. W. Pabst, et al. Lulu Quinn shows a strong affinity for this recurrent theme of urban decay, or deconstruction, through her use of nouvelle funk, similar to Phillip Guston, Kaz, Ralph Bakshi, or any graffiti artists.

Recently Lulu has stated that Astoria is the reference point, a place from which instructive and inspirational cues are taken, the over-riding goal is beauty, but as we know this is continually redefined; the eternal return of creating vision.

There is a consistent sense of the urban as fun, in Lulu’s paintings, in a highly individual and inspiring manner, again, with playfulness. This reminds me of Red Grooms. Perhaps it is the novel willfulness that makes it attractive, or maybe it is Lulu’s particular vantage point, of a Utopian interior view of what the rest of us see as grimy and hum-drum. Echoes of the cityscape reveal the artists’ personality.

Lulu describes Astoria as a catalyst from memory, a place that lacks veneer, and allows a natural and unmodified response, and a truer sense of feeling. The synchronous feeling here comes from “being yourself”, which in a media saturated culture seems a significant goal. Is this the lack of stimuli perhaps, or a true vacuum in which the artistic impulse is free to muse? Along with this comes a general underlying sense that art exists for no real purpose, at least in the sense of a commodity.

Recently Eva Kirk has presented a restless wanderlust and searching which is typical of this process that we are identifying in this show. Her search has been far reaching, and has been preceded by intensive aesthetic explorations which are experimental in nature.

Exploration by travel, gives way to exploration in art.

Eva Kirk, ek3

EVA: “it’s hard for me to say what they (the paintings) will lean towards until I start, because it always changes, (I’m) definitely picking up inspiration from my travels.“ Eva cites “the interconnections of mundane moments, finding your Heart amidst modern day confusion and meaninglessness, wisdom of the ocean, (and) goofiness”, which can’t be under estimated, because in the play of spirit one experiences loss of self, and merges with the greater zeitgeist. Again, agents of change, such as travel, maximize this effect, and help to depersonalize the search, making it more “cosmic” in scheme.

“I use a lot of different mediums but mostly collage and found things and I don’t really know why, I just see something and it either calls me to use it or it doesn’t. Sometimes I will make a piece of art, but then end up taking it apart and using pieces of it to create something else. I feel like that could somehow fit into the idea of eternal return”.

Goofing on your environment can be a healthy way to get a collective reality check. I see these artists as healthily engaged and caring, on the path to the next conversation. Certainly we are standing amidst a tradition here in Astoria. That’s defined every day you get up, and gauge the surroundings. The “return”, in so far as it works, can be seen as the nascent “seeds” that these artists bring back with them after their travels, or perambulations around the village. Getting away is searching, and inevitably it draws you back to confirm the pieces that started the search.

At the moment there seems to be a return to traditional representation, in the format of painting. Even so, it is couched in an atmosphere of experiment(s). Discord and chaos are necessary, and if you can learn to sustain dissonance, your view expands, and the search is for possibilities.

To quote Natalie, “The process involves relinquishing rightness”. That might be the entire concept currently under consideration. What I would add here is that the restless spirit of change has a healthy presence. I liken this Dionysian approach to the earliest forays of automatism of the Surrealists Robert Desnos, and Andre Masson. The edifice of empiricism may be a bed stone, but it is not the grounding wire that channels our creative energy.