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There’s something living inside the paint. It lurks within the interplay of shadows and color that house the strangely compelling figures populating the haunting images of Orlee Andromedae. Orlee Andromedae Stewart (artist name: Mother of Abominations) has honed a unique painting style which opens the esoteric back doorways of the human psyche; a Lovecraftian mind-scape straddling the chasm between this mortal plane and the strange worlds at the far-flung limits of the mind’s eye. The images that haunt our dreams and seem to come from a place beyond our occupations of moment-by-moment thought; that shadow in the corner, that eldritch dream that comes out of nowhere; these are the concepts that Orlee brings in and gives home to from the beyond; a place akin to what English occultist Kenneth Grant called the ‘Mauve Zone;’ these extra-human entities are incarnate in the paint Orlee moves across the canvas.
“I started doing artwork when I was a little kid…to escape reality,” Orlee said. “As I started getting older it became my most enjoyable pastime. When I was a teenager I pretty much just poured out all my teenage angst into artwork, and I was creating these giant drawings of monsters that used to scare me so much. I would hang them up on my wall and look at it and be afraid. That really started me off for this journey of creating artwork that would evoke emotions of the great unknown, and working with those sorts of themes.”
Orlee recollects experiencing waking visions of frightening figures as a child and described these entities as having an appearance similar to alien beings or ghosts. After devoting herself to artwork when older, she said it dawned on her that the figures in her paintings bore an uncanny affinity with these creatures that once lurked in the shadows of her room and haunted her childhood footsteps.
As a fitting accoutrement to her interests in the occult and the shadowy side of life, Orlee’s art is an interesting reflection — a yin-to-yang dynamic emerges in her work, following the pattern of her own unique name which comes from the Hebrew meaning “my light” and is transliterated into English as “Orlee.” This is a juxtaposition of theme that shows up regularly in this artist’s work. Not only in her paintings, which often contrast, blend, and merge bright color with dark backgrounds and darker themes, but also in life. Orlee seeks to take the dark and the fearful and transform it through an alchemy of spirit and paint, into light; not through rejection or fear of the darkness, but through an alchemical embrace of and transcendence of its very essence.
“That transformation of something dark into something light [takes place] by the ability to just see it; once you start shining light on those things and these dark places within yourself, you see that it’s actually not really so bad,” Orlee explained. “It’s something that you can face. I feel like that’s been a really successful way for me to evolve.”
A native of Toronto, Canada, Orlee studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design. She met her husband, Thom Stewart, himself a talented digital artist specializing in occult subject matter, through a mutual interest in the esoteric; the attraction they had for each other and mutual affinity for the same artistic and magick-related themes drew Orlee to Sacramento. After coming to California, the two fell in love and got married. Now based in Sacramento, Orlee continues to draw inspiration from a variety of signposts on the occult landscape.
Orlee believes there is an inherent connection between art and magick, which British magician Aleister Crowley defined as “the science and art of causing a change to occur in conformity with will.” This is a theory that has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years as evidenced by the very terms used by Medieval Occultists, such as the Triangle of Art in the Solomonic grimoire, The Goetia, a manual dealing with demonic evocation.
“I feel like art is a gateway to your astral powers. By that, I mean your ability to have visions.”
“I think that those things work together in concert. As I worked on the ability to see things with my ‘Third-Eye’ and work on the magical world around me, it also manifested in my artwork and allowed me to see further and see more details of things at the same time. The more I started practicing the occult, the more [it] informed the work I was doing; instead of it just being things I was afraid of, it started to become more about finding the beauty in the things we’re afraid of. Through having more understanding, it allows us to conquer that fear.”
Conquering fear and synthesizing the sublime unknown is a theme Orlee explores throughout her work. Her painting is informed by science fiction, ceremonial magick, Kabbalah, and witchcraft, and deals with subjects ranging from Aleister Crowley and the Mark of the Beast to Enochian mathematical formulae and archangels. Goddesses, gods, priests, priestesses, rituals, prophecy, demons, lovers, peaceful respite and violent apocalypse all have their place in the abstract landscapes created under this artist’s brush.
“One of my favorite artists that I get inspiration from is Hieronymus Bosch,” Orlee said. “I really liked his work while growing up because of just how strange the figures in it were, and how he was able to create such strange and twisted landscapes. Upon doing research into him, it seems as though only a very small amount of his paintings actually remain. Most of them were destroyed. Now when we look at the paintings of his that we see, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” for example, that is a very weird painting. So you can only imagine what the art that was destroyed actually was like!”
Orlee’s influences span from proto-surrealist Renaissance-era painters like Bosch to more contemporary artists. The common thread between these influences is an unflinching focus on the dark places, the parts of the subconscious that most shirk away from and would rather leave unconfronted.
“I also really love the work of Zdzisław Beksiński,who was murdered. His art is very tragic but surreal. Pain and suffering are also great sources of inspiration for me. Like most people, I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life. Art has been the way that I’ve been able to cope with things that I’ve gone through. I feel like there’s a lot of artists, like H.R. Geiger for example, where horror and pain and those sorts of things […] come out as these creatures. I think sometimes that’s where I’m manifesting. But I’m also turning that pain into something that is good and productive. I think that’s a big inspiration for the work that I do.”
Two of Orlee’s paintings, “Love Song of Rapture” and “Ataraxia,” was featured in the Canadian Society for Art of Imagination’s touring exhibition at Galerie Flox in Dresden, Germany.