'One day he just walked into the gallery," says Gendega Spons, owner of G44 Gallery. "He had just moved to the Springs and he showed me his work, then I signed him right on the spot. I rarely sign people right on the spot."
In its 2½ years of business, G44 has showcased seven to eight artists per year. But Spons generally is very careful about who they are; since the gallery's only 500 square feet, there is no wiggle room for forgettable exhibits.
The reason for her uncharacteristic haste will be unveiled this weekend, when G44 opens Andres Orlowski's self-titled show. It's the artist and photographer's local debut, though his images have been shown nationally and internationally.
Orlowski was born in Michigan, and moved to Mexico City with his mother at age 2. Growing up, he divided his time between Mexico and living in the States with his father, who gave him his start in art. His father, an artist in his own right, took him to Italy.
"He loved the Renaissance," says Orlowski, now 41. "So he would take me to museums, and he would draw with me."
But there was a flipside to his dad's tutelage, too.
"He is very competitive ... he didn't want me to compete with him. [He felt] I was challenging him when I started painting professionally. He didn't accept me and my painting at first."
So Orlowski for years used another outlet, borrowing from experiences from his youth in Mexico to write poetry. "I've always drawn and always written," he explains. "In Mexico I loved hearing my grandfather tell stories, he was a great storyteller. Mexico is a cruel place but can be very poetic, so it just [embeds itself] into what you write."
Once he finally took up his mantle as an artist, he studied at the Florence Art Academy. Since then, he's seen his works featured in Mexico, China and South Korea. His G44 show will include 15 photographs and two paintings from several different art series.
Those photographs — images manipulated with a painter's imagination — seem as if captured in someone's dream. A combination of real images and paint strokes makes it hauntingly difficult to discern the real from the surreal. "[These works are a] mixture of 'pictorialism' and symbolism," he says. "As a painter, having just the [photographic] image alone is rather boring. So my photographs have a painter's touch. They speak about the human conditions and who we are as humans."
Perhaps you've heard artists aspire to such things before. Spons would insist that Orlowski's approach is unique.
"His style is breathtaking and stunning," she says. "It makes you slightly uncomfortable; [his works] just draw you in and make you want to learn more."