Casting + Directed + Shot + Edited by Carolina Aguirre
I've known Oree for a couple of years, within that time I have seen his diversity and discipline as an artist. From working with stencils to also making NFT's, I have witnessed Oree develop drastically within just one year: his first year during the pandemic.
Oree started the year of 2020 with an exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, his ‘Justice For Our Lives’ become the visual backdrop to numerous Black Lives Matter protests in the Bay Area and worldwide, and this his journey and growth through the first year of the pandemic.
"My name is Oree Originol, and I am a visual artist from Los Angeles currently living in The Bay Area. I am the creator of 'Justice For Our Lives,' a digital portrait series of 100 people killed by US law enforcement. I also create other styles of art using colorful and dynamic shape compositions that express emotions and tell stories relating to my experience as a Chicano artist."
- Oree Originol
The stay-at-home orders at the onset of the pandemic did not have much of an effect on me. Focusing as much time on my art these last several years has reduced my social life, allowing me to naturally self distance from possible exposure to covid-19. For the most part, I have maintained a simple day-to-day routine that is not so stressful. I can say I've been able to live in a relative level of normalcy despite the lack of work that, thankfully, unemployment benefits have provided the coverage I've needed so far.
I feel frustrated about the violence inflicted on vulnerable communities in a time when even more support is desperately needed. From physical attacks on the Asian population, the mismanagement of homelessness in our major cities, the continued imprisonment of low-risk inmates in prisons and detention centers affected by covid-19 outbreaks, and the fatal attacks on Black and Latino communities at the hands of police. The pandemic has exposed capitalism as an ineffective and harmful system to society. Even more so during a destabilizing event like this pandemic, prolonged now as we get closer to 2022. I used my 'Justice For Our Lives' project in 2020 to support the movement against police terror. By providing these designs as free downloads, several displays across the country have spurred conversations and demands for justice. I also did a lot of screen printing to wheatpaste around my city and raise funds for local organizations and impacted families in their fight for justice.
I feel frustrated about the violence inflicted on vulnerable communities.
The quarantine has allowed me to further focus on my work, especially in finalizing my 'Justice For Our Lives' project at 100 portraits. Stay-at-home orders, coupled with the protests following the killing of George Floyd, propelled my productivity in that last stretch of the series that I've been working on since 2014.
Finalizing 'Justice For Our Lives' has been a huge deal for my mental health. The weight that I have carried through this project is obviously nothing compared to what impacted families have to endure, but it indeed has worn me down. This was why I came up with the plan to end at 100, which I feel is enough to capture a narrative that reflects the many ways the state uses law enforcement as a form of terror in our community. Aside from this, I cannot say I have done anything else to heal. It's a work in progress, especially as I look forward to a new art journey and other health-oriented practices in my personal life.
Next on my journey as an artist is to define my visual brand beyond 'Justice For Our Lives.' For many years I've mostly been recognized for my black and white portraits, but now I want to create a new style of work that allows me to continue telling stories. I also want to have fun with my art and be profitable, which is very important to me as I get older.
After one year, I feel pretty acclimated to this new norm of being extra precautious, given that we are still not out of the woods. Not much has really changed for me besides the lack of work to financially sustain myself, so I'm also a little concerned about what changes I will have to make in these next few months once my unemployment benefits run out, but I always find a way.
The next step has been to experiment more in my sketches and explore new elements in my visual output to figure out how to implement them into my paintings moving forward. While I'm at it, I have also been exploring the NFT space to establish myself in one way or another that I will hopefully find success in.