Although Larry Ortega, 62, first decided to study art while attending California State University Fullerton, he recalls the first piece of art he made in fifth grade. The assignment was to draw his soul. “Now that I think about it, it probably looked like a cabbage roll in tomato sauce,” Ortega said, but it still led his teacher to hang his piece on the board.
Ortega still reckons spirituality in his art, and said he aims to craft pieces that depict the four elements: earth, light, water, and air, as well as “the fifth element;” the spirit. His most recent pieces are each unique but crafted with the same technique: steel boxes with LED lights illuminating layers of pearlescent mineral powders mixed with resin. His favorite piece is titled “A New Earth,” which is inspired by Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” It is a long bar of pearly blue-green resin with a notch missing in the middle, representing ocean water receding. “My works are reminiscent of my surfing days and my days being near an ocean, whether it was California, Hawaii, Mexico or Central America,” said Ortega.
Before he studied art, Ortega studied biology with the hopes of becoming a marine biologist. “I had to go through the art department to get to the biology labs,” Ortega said. “People were in there, having fun. There was a lot of freedom. The art really captured my soul, and it is what has driven me through my life.”
His current show, Soul Meets Body, isn’t so much a nod to the famous song from Death Cab for Cuite’s album “Plans” (although Mr. Ortega admits he enjoys their music), but a recognition of the difference between Mr. Ortega and his wife Sandra Ortega’s art styles.
While Mr. Ortega’s pieces are abstract and conceptual, Mrs. Ortega’s most recent work focuses on the bodies of cars. “It takes technique. My mission statement is ‘Capturing the world around me,’” said Mrs. Ortega.
Even though Mrs. and Mr. Ortega’s styles differ, Mrs. Ortega said they share sources of inspiration ranging from the breathtaking places they have lived to the art of others. Mrs. Ortega is even inspired by Mr. Ortega’s desire to “undertake abstraction.”
A less-abstract medium Mr. Ortega works with is property. In addition to being an artist, he is Senior Vice President of Colliers International in the Greater Phoenix area.
“Real estate is just another media for me to work in,” Mr. Ortega said. “I have created the look. I have created the whole package. I have then created the project that came from the thoughts that I had.”
Not only is Mr. Ortega an artist and a realtor, he is also a gallery owner. His first gallery, Obliq, can be found in the Arizona Center, adjacent to his new gallery, gallery LUxx.
Soul Meets Body is currently being exhibited at Obliq, and visions for Obliq and gallery LUxx are being discussed.
Richard and Michele Bledsoe have known Mr. Ortega since December, after Mr. Ortega saw Mrs. Bledsoe’s art on Facebook.
Mrs. Bledsoe had the opportunity to share her work at Obliq gallery in February, and Mr. Bledsoe curated a show at Obliq in May.
“A lot of art galleries seem to be clustered;” Mrs. Bledsoe said, “Obliq is an unexpected pop-up gallery, which brings in a different audience.”
Both Mr. and Mrs. Bledsoe enjoy the genuine relationships they have formed with Mr. and Mrs. Ortega, and hope to see more artist couples emerge.
“They’re just good, genuinely supportive, kind people,” Mrs. Bledsoe said.
Mr. Bledsoe said he relates his art to the art of Mr. Ortega, describing a direct connection between his paintings and Mr. Ortega’s multimedia pieces.
“His illuminated wall pieces. The atmosphere in those resonates with me,” said Mr. Bledsoe. “He is reinforcing my own exploration.”