K8E Orr is a self-described "lazy kind of artist." She paints in bed, uses leftover coffee as a color and doesn't bother to please her audience. But they still get what they want.
"They may be silly objects," Orr says about her mechanized octopi and boldly colored monsters, "but a lot of people will see them and say, 'Oh, that looks just like me.'"
Orr's work is filled with cartoonish caricatures and expressive robots. Sometimes loopy cursive writing frames the subject, while other times skulls and stars set the tone. But every piece displays an allegorical element: The robot is gently carrying a human girl; the octopus tentacle, though dismembered, is still full of color.
"I try to tell the story of my life, but also the story of the world around me," Orr says.
Her favorite piece is an image of compromise. It shows a hand dropping a shattering heart into a cup with "recycle" written on the side.
"A lot of the time, we give up on an idea and it never fully comes back to us," Orr says. "You have to be able to reclaim it again somehow."
A Colorado Springs native, Orr, now 26, says she's had to let a lot go. She has never moved away from the city because her mother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when Orr was 6, requires constant care. But by having lived in one place all her life, Orr feels that she has gained access to parts of herself she may have otherwise lost. Some of those come through in her work: For instance, she uses patterns inspired by the Native American works that dotted her parents' art shop in Crested Butte.
Orr's new show, Ink, at Poor Richard's Restaurant, was inspired by something decidedly less personal: a documentary on Humboldt squid, the highly intelligent but little-understood sea creature that changes color by flushing its skin with an ink-like substance.
"Ink is something we use every day, and it's also something they possess but don't use in the same way," she says.
By recasting ordinary objects in playful and original contexts, Orr synthesizes the natural, mechanical and personal. The forced relationship is a unique suggestion of balance that she thinks tells a common story, one people are excited to see.
"Art is a way to express yourself," she says. "It's a direction I want the world to move in."