Orin Carpenter’s paintings are active and vocal. Color in motion, pulling the viewer like waves in a sea. Faces, teeth, eyes and fists appear within the undulations of color, like ships.
Carpenter’s solo exhibition, Bridges and Walls, the culmination of his year-long residency with MarinMOCA, sends the viewer quickly and deeply into the circumstances of human connect—and disconnect.
Bridges and Walls investigates the places where we build bridges between one another, and the places where we build walls instead. In this particularly divisive time in human history, fraught with diseases of the body, mind and planet, the choice to build a bridge instead of a wall becomes more and more challenging to make, and the more walls we build, the harder still it becomes to bridge them.
When the exhibition opened in November, Carpenter wrote a blog post about his process producing these pieces, saying: “My work does not depend on the surface or outer layer being meticulously exact and perfect. The surface, needs to reflect the growth, turmoil, changes or metamorphosis happening on the inside. A bridge, if you will, to myself—my heart and soul.”
This willingness to express the turmoil of metamorphosis—the painful, fraught nature of change and of being alive, is what makes bridge-building possible. Too often we seek perfection, or a good feeling, the sense that what we are doing will be easy, easily accepted, complete. Life is not this way. Change is active, dynamic and difficult. Bridges require balance, collaboration and faith.
Time and strength go into the expression required to maintain connection, and there is no guarantee that choosing to engage with reality will feel good—often it doesn’t. But the alternative is worse still: Not expressing, not creating, not inviting ourselves and our vivid imaginations into the circumstances of our lives is like not living at all; meanwhile, we can never really separate from the nature of our shared lives, full, at this moment, of so much sickness and death.
As an artist of color, Orin Carpenter uses this bridging of his imagination with reality to invite the viewer into an understanding of his experience, offering them the opportunity to build a bridge from their own point of understanding into his. Connecting the viewer to his journey without the need for perfection is an exceptional example of bridge building, full of courage and a willingness to endure the struggle of connecting with life.
From his first moments painting as a young child to escape the pain of racism to now, Carpenter has created a connection between himself and the outside world, using creativity and color to communicate his power, pain and perspective. Accepting the imperfections of reality—and building a bridge to it regardless—is an act of courage and faith that inspires.
Let Carpenter’s work be an inspiration to build bridges and not walls. Bridges and Walls is on display at MarinMOCA through Jan. 30, 2022. Admission is free to the public. For more information visit marinmoca.org.