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 declined a scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design to attend 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 20 years. Most recently, her work has been shown at the 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). Her paintings are included in private and corporate collections and she has been commissioned to create works for private collectors.

Orr has lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2012.

Artist Statement

I have worked for the past several years on a series of paintings inspired by theories of cosmology, physics, and biology. 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 explore in my work places that are not easily imagined and to make apparent those subjects we may never be able to photograph or areas that we may never visit.

I begin my paintings by imagining what I would sense if I were physically present in a given reality. 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. In this way, my work plays on the parallels and consistencies found throughout the cosmos, regardless of size. In fact, my paintings are most fully experienced by viewing them up close and then again from a distance. Each color palette is chosen to impart mood and spirit, as well as to provide shadow and highlight necessary for depicting three dimensionality. Raised liquid polymer lines function both as simple symbols and as directional devices to delineate edges and suggest form. 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 for me to step outside of my day to day existence and create a place of my own invention, a place one might like to visit. 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.”