With his rapid, precise speech, Jon Orr projects a certain restlessness, the kind that comes from big ideas that aren't easy to express. He's a capable artist in multiple media, from painting to sculpture to woodcut. His most recent work explores the strange intersections between scientific innovation and the occult.
"Even though we like to think there's a real hard separation between this esoteric thinking and hard science," he says, "the fact is that's not true."
He makes particular note of Sir Isaac Newton, who wrote hundreds of pages of research on alchemy. It's worth noting that, at the time, chemistry as it's understood today was in its infancy, but Newton's writings on "Mercury's Caducean Rod" and a sun-devouring green lion are decidedly mystical. That said, Orr makes it clear that he's not espousing beliefs, just exploring them.
"Curiosity is my religion," he says. "It's not necessarily about finding an answer or having a certain belief system... but the journey of discovery." In this strange space between publicly verifiable evidence and secret rites, he's looking more for archetypes and the language to discuss his ideas.
Currently, he's working on both a novel and a collaborative art exhibit. The book, titled Ghostlands, will be the first in a trilogy. Orr writes of a young medium who falls in with a group that hunts ghosts to use them as an energy source.
"I guess the idea is, in folklore, that ghosts are infinite," he says. His book will cleave to higher math as much as the supernatural, exploring recursion and paradoxes.
He's also pairing up with embroidery artist Ingrid Morath for an April exhibit at The Modbo, which will be based on Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Orr says he's pulling from Joseph Campbell's work on comparative mythology, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, as well as the archetype-centric works of Carl Jung.
"It's largely going to be about ritual and how that represents itself across different cultures."