DENIS ORLOFF Taking You to Places in the Heart

We all have places in which we are happy, content, and at peace with the world. The meticulously crafted watercolors of West Orange resident Denis Orloff take us to his, and in that journey, it’s as if we can’t help finding our way to ours as well.

As an illustration major at New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design, he learned the ins and outs of creating images that in his very busy early career, would illustrate magazines, books, posters, and advertising. Yet it was after the birth of his first child that he put aside his brushes, and began to develop real estate. The Essex County area is dotted with the homes his firm renovated, or built from scratch, all of which beautifully harken to a grand time in American architecture.

It was in 2006, when he found inspiration learning about the grandfather he’d never met, legendary painter Gregory Orloff. He took this inspiration to the Catskill farm his family owns and put it to work. “I have always been drawn to the light”, he says. “Light is everything. Sunrises and sunsets, the early morning light and the fading light of twilight; I believe that the depiction of light is one of the hardest and most gratifying things I can do in a painting.” Orloff believes that this special light brings up feelings of nostalgia and other deep emotions. And that it does when depicted by him in his remarkable watercolor paintings.

Take for instance Old Faithful, which is the tire swing behind the house at his family’s Catskill farm. It’s been years since his now adult children relentless played on the swing which sits, almost forlornly, both maybe hoping for the next generation of children, while plucking at Orloff’s heartstrings, and ours, as it evokes a nostalgia for our own childhoods, and we find it triggering our own sweet memories.

Almost daily when Orloff is at his Catskill home he walks past the former estate of renown opera singer Anelita Galli-Curci. In Galli-Curci Barn he’s captured the now unattended to barn of the estate in the late afternoon light he loves to paint. The barn itself is a leftover from the era of the large Catskill estates in the Bel Air Mountain area. With his masterful depiction of the light and extraordinary detail in the foliage we feel the loss of that earlier time.

The Minute Man Walk is a country path near Concord, Massachusetts on which the Minute Men supposedly traveled to one of the first battles of the American revolution. Once again, we see Orloff’s skill at replicating late-day light, and capturing a mood as well as a place. And we find ourselves in a happy peace, inspired by this calm moment in time.

Many of these exquisite paintings will be on display at the West Orange Arts Council in an exhibit during July and August. Orloff will be at the reception on Friday, July 29th from 5pm. Check the Arts Council’s website for other times, and visit his website and find a plethora of recent work. But be forewarned: in seeing the paintings of some of his special places, you may find yourself simply aching to visit them, or your own in real life. 

Art of Essex