Trisha Orr


I'm drawn to situations of interiority or reverie-moments when people turn inward even when they are engaged in social settings. I work from drawings and notes made from cell phone photos, and make new drawings and additional notes before each painting session.

The earliest of these paintings are about my dog, Georgie Girl. Later, I moved on to paintings of family members and friends. Most recently, I've been interested in painting people that work at my local supermarket.

With the family groups, it's a matter of painting the faces I love and their gazes-either looking at each other or looking inside themselves, or both at the same time. I find these compositions often present a "safe circle."

My earlier, complicated still-lifes represented a kind of meditation on chaos and beauty-how even a chaotic jumble of embroidered cloth, flowers, and transparent or figured vases could become beautiful if it was stopped and held steady in the moment of the painting. With my beloveds, I feel like I'm picking a moment out of the flow of human intimacy and interaction and distilling it into a stop-time scene that I and the viewer can contemplate. Lifted up in this way, these ordinary moments become something stable. Thomas Hardy writes in a poem of his old age about an ordinary remembered childhood moment when his family gathered by the living room fireplace: "blessings emblazoned that day. Everything glowed with a gleam/ But we were looking away." In these paintings I try to look toward not "away"-and lift them up to be explored as the ordinary blessings and dramas I feel that they are.

In the supermarket paintings, I start with the simple fact that I think supermarkets are amazing spaces visually-their aisles and checkout counters stacked with products and all the shoppers moving through either purposefully or in a state of mild distraction and the personnel (who become familiar faces and personalities if you shop in the same supermarket for decades, as I have) presiding with agile detachment over the whole drama.

I'm fascinated by the strange cornucopia of nourishment that is part of the American story for many people and for the middle class in developed countries. Supermarkets, when you shift away from the people inhabiting the scene, represent a chaos of abundance that is both exhilarating and disturbing. In contrast, the scenes of my family and friends gathered around dinner tables or in kitchens bring the story of how we live into a quieter, more intimate focus.

I think of the family and friend paintings and the supermarket paintings as complementary- an intention highlighted by the fact that frequently my family members (husband, daughter) put in an appearance in the supermarket paintings.

The philosopher Phillip Wheelwright once spoke about certain situations having more "ontological tenderness" than others. I like to think that this "tenderness of being in the world" is present in some of the scenes I paint and to bring that forward onto the canvas is one of my ambitions.

The Braid
12x18 oil on canvas, 2015

Poet in the Afternoon
24x30 oil on canvas, 2014

Poet in the Morning

This Above All
24x24 oil on canvas, 2015

Silas at the Supermarket
Oil on canvas, 36"x44", 2017-20

Quartet with Newspaper

Georgie and Milton
on the South Shore

24x36 oil on canvas, 2012-14

Blue Night
18x18 oil on canvas, 2014

The Night Reader

The Night Chef

After the Feast
30x40 oil on canvas, 2015-16

Green Night
20x20 oil on canvas, 2016

Eliza, Jason and
the Golden Fleece

Apple of my eye

Thanksgiving at Reema's

Poet at Krogers