Orin Carpenter became an artist because he needed to breathe. Growing up in the South, he learned early on that he was different. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Carpenter likes to say he was raised in the South but braised on the West Coast. “My artistic voice has been cultivated here,” he said.
Lucky to have been raised by two conscious, educated and passionate parents who made him realize his difference, they also made sure he was proud to be a person of color. As he navigated the streets and culture of his childhood, he realized that not everyone agreed with his love for his culture. His mother would take him and his brother to the library on Saturdays during his early years of development. “She said to me, ‘This is a place where you can travel the world for free. You can be whoever you want, ”Carpenter said.
But the challenges only increased as he grew in his truth as a young African American man. Carpenter realized that the beautiful worlds he encountered in the library could come to life with the stroke of a pencil. His imagination has become his escape route. Like the superheroes he admired in the comics, art became his superpower.
His early inspirations evolved from the Renaissance artists of Harlem because their stories were similar to his. Able to visualize their emotions, he recognized how he was encapsulated in their work. Along with this influence are his own experiences: people, nature and a passion for life. “All of these help me reflect on the graph of the life I have been lucky enough to live and how I have been blessed,” he said. A spiritual man, Carpenter was inspired by a quote from feminist theologian Mary Daly: “It is the very creative potential of human beings that is the image of God.
Her vibrant and impactful paintings capture her passion in an expressive way from start to finish of her creative process. Upon entering his studio, he takes a moment to stop before jumping into it. First of all, he breathes, reflects, prays and meditates. Then, he organizes the materials and arranges the space. Then he selects his music of the day and responds to the lyrics to eliminate any future distractions. He meditates a second time on the ideas of his work.
Finally, he begins to create. Its essentials are simple, the most important tools are a pencil, pen or stylus. “I’m a conceptual person and every job starts with a drawing,” Carpenter said. He translates ideas from his mental space into a tangible place, whether it’s drawn on a piece of paper, a napkin, his hand, or a smartphone—some resting place of the idea, awaiting birth, then physically coming to life on a surface.
Carpenter’s work evolved throughout the pandemic. Although still socially conscious, especially in his figurative series Species at risk, current events have given his work a new context and new energy which has guided him to be more experiential and daring in his approach. This is palpable in the abstract works of his Quarantine state of mind series. A collection of intimate portraits, Reflections, takes another integrated twist, capturing character and ambiance in brilliant colors and shapes. Carpenter builds on existing series synonymous with how lives grow and transform, while also working on a new series dedicated to women of color and their strength in these trying times.
Carpenter was once told by a mentor that as an artist you have an obligation to the world to educate, uplift and challenge everyone who comes across his work. “I hope to rise to this challenge and help us come to a place where empathy is honored and not despised. I pray that art helps create a dialogue where we speak. To each other instead of To to each other and also practice active listening, ”he said. Another inspiration emerges from Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ”
Carpenter has a long way to go to exhibit widely this year. It most recently showed in February at Macy’s Union Square in “Black History; Black Brilliance ”, exhibition in conjunction with the Art of the African Diaspora 2021 event at the Richmond Art Center. He is artist in residence at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato and will exhibit this work at the end of 2021.
He will be represented in the nascent publication, Bay Area Book Artists, created by Jen Tough Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, release date pending. Carpenter is also forming a new relationship with the Artize Gallery in Palm Springs. Carpenter is also director of the visual and performing arts department at Marin Catholic High School where he taught for fifteen years.
For more information, visit his website at orincarpenter.com.