A video of Darren Orange spraying, wiping, smearing and throwing paint on a canvas matches his own description of how he works: fast and furiously.

Part of a small exhibit at the Newport Visual Arts Center in January, the video conveys a feverish quality. Red, orange, black and white streak across the canvas, capturing a moment in time and place.

“I paint where I live, and where I live permeates what I paint,” he says. Raised on an apple orchard in Yakima, educated at Western Washington University in studio painting and now a resident of Astoria, the 38-year-old painter finds inspiration in windmills, fishing villages, shipwrecks and broken down cars.

“I’m drawn to marks that man has left on the environment—ruined architectural elements, discarded things and reminders of the obsolete,” he says. They’re his window to history, the human scale in the natural environment. Abandoned railroad tracks, the bow of a ship disappearing into the fog, a female face melting away, hair swept back as if caught at the exact moment of a nuclear blast—all fierce and powerful images.

Less about oil and canvas and more about finding new, nontraditional materials, his methods today include more mixed media and photography. “Photography is like a sketch for painting,” he says. “The more I digitally manipulate photos, the more they marry up to my paintings, becoming more abstract.”

Orange’s work has been shown throughout the Northwest— including Portland’s Graeter Gallery, and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Atlanta. He will be doing a residency with the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming this spring.

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Lee Lewis Husk & Jack Despain
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