Charlotte-based artist Osiris Rain isn't busy painting when I phone him for an interview. Instead, he's in Wilmington on the set of Iron Man 3. Rain lays down his paintbrush and lends his hands to work on movie sets for three to four months out of the year. He wrestles with canvas the rest of the time. His latest MoNa exhibit, From the Mouth of the Cave, debuts a collection of recent portraits. Rain, who studied and developed his artistic skills in Italy and Norway, captures the struggle and melancholy of his models. His solo showcase is reflective of life's transitions and moments of emotional truth. Creative Loafing spoke with him about his creative process and works in the exhibit.
Creative Loafing: The portraits in the From the Mouth of the Cave exhibit have a dreary look. Was this intentional?
Osiris Rain: I really wanted to capture people at those moments when they're not surrounded by people. Sort of, that moment when you're in the bathroom and you're staring at the mirror and you aren't expected to be anything for anyone; when true essence of your nature comes out. It's usually sort of a solemn, a quiet personal moment where you pause and there's some loneliness and sadness. I personally believe that the majority of people are very lonely because of all these expectations of who we should be and who we're supposed to be. So, we put on this act to be somebody that we're not to appease the general masses, and in the end it doesn't help us in gaining any greater understanding of ourselves or the people around us. It's just a show. I was aiming to capture those feelings and quiet moments in my paintings.
In "Tommes," there is a guy who's clearly been in some sort of accident. He's got a black eye, bruising and a cast on. What inspired this piece of work?
There's a little reason behind it and there's more of an emotional reason behind it. The little reason is that, it's a great friend of mine that I met a couple years back when I did a cross-country trip on a motorcycle that was all off road on the TransAmerica Trail. I got stuck at the top of the Hancock Pass in Colorado, and this guy from Canada came rolling up behind me and helped me down the mountain. The air was really thin, and I was about to pass out. We ended up being friends beyond that. I went up and saw him after he'd just gotten in a huge motorcycle accident. He was beat up and I thought it was just the most beautiful thing in the world. I just had to paint it. What spoke to me about it was mostly his personality. My friend is still rebellious, and he's still going to get back on a motorcycle even after breaking himself, so he has a sort of glint in his eye. But he's definitely broken and vulnerable.
You mostly use live models. Is it hard to get them to pose in such a somber manner?
I usually have an idea of what I'm trying to achieve in the piece. Just a general kind of blurry emotional context that I'm going for. Not necessarily how it's laid out or designed. So I'll talk to the model and try to describe as best as I possibly can, what I'm trying to achieve both in their physical movement and in their facial expression. I'll even line up a scenario for them to visualize while they're being painted that helps them put that into a very physical actuality. That way they can put themselves in the place where I want their minds to be. That's how I usually approach it. It's usually emotion first and then I design the movement or pose around it.