• November 29, 2014

Creating ‘Close Encounters’ for Temple CAC exhibit ‘a joy’ for artist

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Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2014 4:30 am

In the world of motherhood, prioritizing and juggling responsibilities never ends. There’s endless list-making, delegating and multitasking — and then there’s Crystal Orlando.

A petite woman who projects an air of calmness and serenity, on Wednesday she stood in the cavernous space of the Howard Gallery in Temple’s Cultural Activities Center, surrounded by 30 of her original drawings — 25 of which she’s created in just a few months.

Her one-woman show: “Close Encounters” opened Friday.

Orlando’s subject matter is animals — domestic and wild, rendered in graphite and ranging from 9-by-12 inches on up to 19-by-24.

Working from photographs she’s made of North American mammals, the finished pieces are representational, detailed and absent any cloying cuteness or unnecessary anthropomorphization.

Poses range from tranquil to playful, and many of the works seem to pulse with energy.

As with many exhibits at the CAC, curator Marilyn Ritchie was the instigator. “Crystal entered an art contest. It was a juried show and she received the Best of Show award,” Ritchie said.

In August, Ritchie, a tireless searcher for new talent, issued her edict: a major, one-woman exhibition in the vast Howard Gallery. Thirty works on the walls, and a deadline — early January.

“The only problem was, at that time I only had five pieces completed,” Orlando said. Not to mention a husband, a part- time job at a friend’s clothing shop, two children age 11 and 14, and the biggest responsibility, albeit a joyful one: a new baby on the way — due date: Jan. 1.

With the gallery opening looming, she plunged into the work. “Actually, having a deadline was a good thing — I streamlined my technique, developed shortcuts, used brushes at times. After the kids got on the school bus I had four to five hours each weekday to draw.” Orlando smiles at the memory: “It was a lot of work.”

“Drawing is as natural to me as breathing,” the artist said. And that’s understandable — she was taught by her mother, a commercial artist.

Currently residing in Temple, Orlando has extensive experience with horses that includes training in polo, dressage and cutting, and that equine affinity is evident in her drawings.

Except for her mother’s tutelage, she describes herself as a “mostly self-taught artist” until a few years ago when she “had the pleasure of working with several masters.”

Orlando’s work is shown at Griffith Fine Art Gallery in Salado and at Taos Fine Art and Framing Gallery in Taos, N.M. Future exhibitions are a goal: “I see myself getting into bigger, better galleries,” she said.

The artist is soft-spoken but intense when explaining her objective. “I want the viewer to have a connection with animals and understand them better.”

And this afternoon in the Howard Gallery, with the mandated 30 original works finally completed, framed and hung, Orlando cuddled her other magnum opus, 1-week-old daughter Logan in her arms. Beaming, she gazed at her exhibition, and at her newborn. “It’s all been a joy,” she said.

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