Lustrous Luminaries (Direct from the Artist Kevin Orlosky)
Lustrous Luminaries portrays a cross section of our vibrant arts and culture community here in Richmond through untraditional portraits in a historically relevant photo process. The method embodies how the arts community embraces our city’s historic significance while still opening ourselves to new ideas, possibilities, and growth. The portraits in this series are artists, organizers, or supporters that I have had personal interactions with or greatly admire. For each portrait I aimed to capture the essence of each individual’s character while relating it to their contributions to the art world. I am captivated by the pure physicality of creating these life-sized photogram cyanotypes. Its methodology comprises, science, engineering, planning, collaboration, composition, spontaneity and chance. It truly embodies all the things I love about making art.
First I mix up the emulsion in large batches testing my mathematical equation and chemistry lab skills. The stuff us artists don’t do a lot of. Next I set the mood and dim the lights way down and soak large pieces of fabric in emulsion. I hang the fabric up close to each other so they can talk about me behind my back while I leave the studio overnight. I come back to the studio and kindly ask the fabric if I can fold them up and place them in a light proof bag. They oblige. For each portrait, I ask my brain and the subject’s brains for inspiration on how to compose the portrait. Usually that works pretty well. Then I hunt for the best objects to achieve my vision. The subject comes by to the studio, I have already set up a nice comfy platform for them to lay on and a custom made shutter tent on wheels to block the sun light. First we play around on the platform to find the perfect pose and arrangement. Next I get out he cyanotype fabric stretch it out on the platform and we do it all again. This time for real. I wheel the shutter tent away and let nature take control. Sometimes its sunny and crisp, sometimes its cloudy and soft, sometimes the wind is feeling creatives and decides to help by moving things around. This is where I must surrender my control. Once the sun’s ultra violet rays finish exposing the photogram, I wheel the shutter then back into place, give praise the subject for preventing muscle spasms and sneezes while laying completely still, and remove everything off of the fabric. The fabric is then placed in water to be developed.
Before I bring out the fabric, I work with each subject to find the pose and fine tune the composition. When ready, I lay the fabric our under a custom shutter tent to block the light from hitting the fabric. The subject lays directly on top of the fabric and various objects are place around them to form the composition. When complete, I roll the shutter tent away from the fabric and expose it to the ultra-violet light from the sun. When the exposure is complete, I roll the shutter tent back into place remove the objects and the subject then develop the cyanotype in water.
Kevin Orlosky has been a life-long artist and tinkerer. It all started when he was in the womb and used his first medium, the umbilical cord, to create sculpture. Since no one is really born with natural talent, he still had much needed practicing to do. His first attempt didn’t go so well as his sculpture was wrapped around his neck upon entry into the world thus making it difficult breath. So practicing he did. He loved it. From illustrating books about daffodils at 6 to creating masterfully detailed large intricate mazes at 10, Kevin delighted in finding new ways to release the visions inside his head. He relished it so much I think he tried releasing the visions a little too literally. At the ripe age of 17 during his rebellious and anti-authoritarian punk years he got thrills out of jumping off dangerously high objects while wearing wheels on his feet. He learned pretty abruptly that smashing your head into the concrete doesn’t help get the visions out, just puts you in the intensive care. But it turned out alright, since he had a lot of down time, Kevin was able to put a large amount of focus into creating art. Thus projecting him into the path of artisthood.
Now as all young artists seeking fame and fortune, he set off to art school. Kevin chose Savannah College of Art and Design because he was drawn its state of the art facilities, the city’s southern charm, the long distance away from the parents, and the glorious live oaks draping in Spanish moss. Here he did all the same stuff that kids in art school do, like focus really hard on drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, practice recreational drug use, delight in the occasional hardcore drug that you can’t pronounce the name, and try to get girls to see him naked. Not in the posing for life drawing way. Oh, and almost forgot, making some really good paintings. Luckily he was surrounded by lots of other brilliant people and managed to learn old master techniques, master color theory and composition, help manage student run non profit galleries, and curate exhibitions. He escaped somehow by graduating with honors, fell in love with his now superiorly smart and beautiful wife Andrea and moved to Chicago.
Except for the two months of summer, Chicago was awesomely cold, disturbingly grey, and real life wrenchingly depressing. Kevin realized quickly that the life of an artist in the real world is mind bendingly hard. So something had to be done. He and his wife decided to reboot and move to Richmond. Here they founded Art on wheels which has allowed Kevin to dive deep into learning new materials, processes, and techniques while sharing his discoveries with those who lack access to art. Through his work with Art on Wheels, he has developed connections with amazing artists and organizers, conceived outrageous and meaningful monumental art projects that do things like launch objects from a custom built ballista 100’ through the air into clay to create a sculpture honoring veterans, to breaking world records in printmaking to honor people affected by cancer. Somehow during all of this he managed to display his work at a couple of prestigious Virginia museums, exhibit internationally, and create his greatest masterpieces ever, a girl human named Ada, and a boy human named Ellis.