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The Verve: CV grad uses art to explore hidden purpose of humanity

Mara Orenstein does paintings and mixed media pieces. Her body of work was completed mostly through the studio art program at Central Valley High School. (Dan Pelle)
Mara Orenstein does paintings and mixed media pieces. Her body of work was completed mostly through the studio art program at Central Valley High School. (Dan Pelle)
Jennifer Larue

Mara Orenstein, 18, is only just beginning her creative ventures.

She will be heading off to Seattle University in the fall with a sketchbook, an open mind and many questions.

“My inspirations come from sounds, music, dreams, countercultures, nature and the excitement of mixing the usual with something unusual,” she said. “The idea of morphing our physicality while asking questions like, what keeps us from being wiped away? What are our bodies truly made from? Where do our minds end and our hearts begin? What are the boundaries we keep between our physical being, our place in the universe and our perception of those margins?”

When she was younger, Orenstein took drawing classes at Spokane Art Supply and water coloring classes at the Art Chalet in Liberty Lake. At Central Valley High School, she began expressing herself in theater classes and then moved to the visual arts in her junior year. In her senior year, she signed up for the school’s studio art program. “Central Valley High School hasn’t offered Advanced Placement Studio Art in over 10 years,” said art teacher Jenne Hatcher. “This year I recreated the course at CV to offer students the opportunity to try to earn college credit for building an art portfolio of 29 original works of art. Mara was the only student out of approximately 2,000 who was up for the challenge. She worked countless hours both in and out of the classroom to create thought-provoking, intense and high-quality works of art.”

Orenstein’s portfolio, done in an array of media on paper or canvas, includes portraits made with unexpected colors or fracturing – a hand with a nose, an ear, lips and eyes incorporated into it, a lone hunched figure in a rowboat, collages and a silhouette climbing in what looks like a cave of rocks shaped like human organs.

At Seattle University, Orenstein plans on focusing on women’s studies and intends to work for a nonprofit organization that benefits women in other countries. For the first two years, she will be in the honors program but she will never stop making art. “I have requested a room on the creative arts floor in the dorm,” she said, “I want to stay inspired.”

She will enroll in art classes later, believing that her art will mix well with women’s studies. “Women’s studies might be considered a type of activism,” she said, “And activism is benefited by art and propaganda.”

To Orenstein, art is all about making connections and enabling a viewer to relate more easily to an idea or a feeling. “In my art, I continually come back to the relationships that link humans to their environment and those that link them to their emotions, because within those relationships which connect us to our surroundings and whatever is beyond them, I believe is the true hidden purpose of humanity.”

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