In the Apex of Love and Suffering: Interview with Painter and Photographer Andres Orlowski
is images are not comfortable. There is struggle in the portraits Andres Orlowski creates. Push-pull of muscles. Sometimes hanging on. Sometimes release. But all of it necessary, we see this. Dance of transition.
INTERVIEW WITH ANDRES ORLOWSKI
Colorado Springs, Colorado ~
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Andres, the photograph you created in Tent Rocks, New Mexico, entitled, “Nudo de Vida.” Can you tell me about it?
Andres Orlowski: It is part of my series, “Within and Without.” For me, it is very symbolic in nature. At times it delves into the silent, awful and beautiful ties between us and nature, struggles and serenity included. At other times it involves the union between, in this case, lovers. In most of the photos, the woman is more dynamic and the male more passive. The series is spread over indefinite darkness, interior confessions and outdoor mysteries, somewhere more primal.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you feel we truly understand nature? Or are we intimidated by it? Even afraid of it?
Andres Orlowski: Yes. Afraid of what is “natural” within us. I think we experience nature, and nature experiences us.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: As an artist, what do you view to be your mission? To serve as witness? Or to challenge, even push against societal norms and attitudes?
Andres Orlowski: hmm, I approach photography in much the same way as paintings. I consider myself a “pictorial conceptualist” as a photographer. As a painter, I am a figurative painter with a strong bend toward symbolism and a profound curiosity with ways of life, culture and character.
Andres Orlowski: The figure and the portrait play an important part of my work because they are expressive of our experience.
I consider myself fortunate and greedy to delve into the arts.
Andres Orlowski: How do I want to affect others? There is a line of poetry I wrote some time ago. It reads: “Hay huellas silenciosas y blancas, olores fríos, ramas que son letras y cuyas copas son intangibles pero se mueven en el pecho como serpientes amorosas lejos de las miradas de los demás.” Translation: Here are silent, white footsteps, frigid odors, branches that are words with foliage that cannot be touched, but they move inside the heart like amorous snakes far from the gaze of others.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: I just adore the strength of this one, Andres:
Andres Orlowski: Thank you. Yes, she is powerful, grounded and yet they are both suspended in the act.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Did you know this was where you were headed when you started out with the shoot?
Andres Orlowski: Photography is often spontaneous. I have a general idea, but I respond emotionally to what I see and to its possibilities. I am also learning about myself as I work.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What are some of the revelations that have come about for you from your piece, “Dream of Life and Death”?
Andres Orlowski: Well, there is a tenderness in embracing the dead legs of the lover.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Does your work teach you about vulnerability and letting go of control?
Andres Orlowski: Yes, I become silent. I die into the image briefly. I share in its power and human folly as well.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Yes. Lovely. Very. And your portrait of the veiled pregnant woman?
Andres Orlowski: The life is hidden, the embryo present but only appreciated in the presence of the mother. She reflects on what is taking place. What she carries.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: The veil creates privacy and intimacy between the woman and her fetus?
Andres Orlowski: And represents what they both are. To each other and others.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: A very different treatment than your “Oil study for Las Mudas.”
Andres Orlowski: Wow, that was a shocking shift! (chuckles) That is a study for a future painting. I tend to work on several at the same time.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: So it is not yet complete? Hence the unfinished mouth? Or is that part of the story here?
Andres Orlowski: I left the mouth unfinished on purpose.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Tell me. She is being silenced? Or is it her choice to be mute?
Andres Orlowski: She chose it herself. I live with fragments and studies sometimes for a long time…
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What secrets is she keeping? Whom is she protecting?
Andres Orlowski: Little by little, I realize what they are about… Although some ideas come fully formed…
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: So you will sometimes create a painting and arrive somewhere where only your sub-conscious understands? At least at first? As if in a dream?
Andres Orlowski: Yes. Some I work on for years, even though I paint and draw quickly. To fully achieve my intent is important.
My self-portrait I repainted several times for two or three years.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: I was just about to ask you about that piece. In it are you slowly emerging?
Andres Orlowski: It’s called “Breathe.”
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: So you are pressing out from under a suffocating layer? At last finding air? Is that the gift that your art affords you?
Andres Orlowski: An artist is cut in half. The poetry is in the fullness.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Society versus self? The exterior world versus the interior self?
Andres Orlowski: A mask of the self. Fragment of the fullness.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Is the mask an opportunity to play? Try on alternative selves?
Andres Orlowski: That is also true, yes. Art is an intimate and vital theater, and a bridge to the experience of others.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What have been your sources of inspiration for your work, Andres? You delve into much rich metaphor. Were there myths that captured your imagination growing up? Where were you born?
Andres Orlowski: I was born in Michigan, but grew up in Mexico City.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What fed your imagination?
Andres Orlowski: Many things. My father was a painter and my grandfather a screenwriter. Mexico City is a land with so much history, with myths and gods that are fluid, dark, vengeful and tender. My mother is from Mexico City. Her whole side of the family. Before I decided to become a painter, I wrote and wrote. Poetry in Spanish, prose in English. Dostoevsky was a strong influence in my early twenties. Culture in Mexico is very old and organic and full of extremes.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Yes. Dramatic and intense. Emotions are seldom held back, are they? Can you tell me about the portrait you title, “Tullee”?
Andres Orlowski: It is from the same series. She is like a lioness.
This one: War ~
Andres Orlowski: The portrait is part of my love of the form. Both in older photography and in painting. I purposely want these people to exist in an indefinite time.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you find that you do your best work when you are feeling conflicted and torn? Or when you are feeling it all flowing together and much wisdom is surfacing?
Andres Orlowski: I work constantly. Experience and meditation, expand and contract. As I’ve grown older, I need more and more time to express what I need and there are fewer distractions. This comes at a price too.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: And the price?
Andres Orlowski: I think when one is in the apex of love or suffering it is difficult to understand the ride. Patience. And then perhaps the reward: the value of solitude.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Yes. She doesn’t appear to be sad about it.
Andres Orlowski: (chuckles) No, she’s jubilant. But she is small and the sun is hidden and far away. There is a tempered warmth. Those rocks she stands between are ancient. The light is new, like her.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: This is beautiful, Friend. Makes me want to cry.
Andres Orlowski: Why is that?
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: I feel her struggle. She is not giving up.
Andres Orlowski: It is a hopeful moment.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Yes indeed.
Andres Orlowski is a contemporary figurative realist who works out of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
To view and read more about his photography: ISSU: Andres Orlowksi ~ photo catalogue
To see more of his paintings and read about his artistic process: Andre Orlowski’s artist blog
For Spanish-speakers interested in reading more of Andres Orlowski’s poetry: Andres Orlowski’s poetry blog