The Secret Gallery

Seeing with a ‘backwards brain’

Painter Michael Orwick, whose work will be included in an October show in Astoria, says his dyslexia helped him become an artist

Reading his bio, the first bit of information you learn about artist Michael Orwick is that he nearly died at birth (he’s not entirely sure, but he thinks the umbilical cord was wound around his neck) and that while his mother thought he was perfect, his physician father “knew better.” It’s something of an inside joke, but as it turns out, also true – at least in some eyes. But a learning disorder others might see as a deficit Orwick soon discovered could, in fact, be quite the attribute — one he says he “wouldn’t trade for a minute.”

Next month, the Beaverton painter will lead his usual plein air workshop in Cannon Beach, albeit with a very limited number of participants, thanks to the you-know-what. In October, he and his 16-year-old daughter, Elena, will participate in the Sins of the Father show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria, which will feature artists and their fathers. We talked with Orwick about his life as an artist and the imperfection that helped shape him. His comments have been edited for clarity.

Artist Elena Orwick, 16, and her father Michael Orwick will have their work included in the October "Sins of the Father" show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria.
Michael Orwick and his 16-year-old daughter, Elena, will have their work included in the October “Sins of the Father” show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria.

On your webpage, you mention that your parents realized early on that you were dyslexic and saw things differently. How did that affect you?

Orwick: I could tell early on I was meant to understand things that I wasn’t understanding. Things weren’t supposed to be as hard as that. But I was able to put disparate things together to make something really creative. I just had a different way of seeing things.

In a thank you letter you sent to the “people that shaped me,” you wrote: “You should understand, growing up dyslexic, school was hard. Any subject with letters, or numbers, or dates or facts — they seemed harder for me than most kids. Although, if the assignment was visual, or creative — AHHHHH, it was like the clouds parting and angels singing! I felt like saying, “Step back citizens, I have this, everything is under control.”

Did being dyslexic make it hard on you as kid?


Coast calendar: Getting back in the swim

The Oregon Coast Aquarium partially reopens this week and other news from the art and animal worlds

After five long, lonely months with no visitors allowed, the Oregon Coast Aquarium got the green light to open its doors to the public beginning this week.

You can visit the puffins again at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, as outdoor exhibits received the go-ahead to open to the public this week.
You can visit the puffins again at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, as outdoor exhibits received the go-ahead to open to the public this week.

“We are thrilled to welcome our guests back to the aquarium,” said Carrie Lewis, president and CEO of one of the biggest tourist draws on the coast. The experience will be different with only outside exhibits open, as well as reduced admission ($15, purchased online only), enhanced safety protocols, and no crowds.

The one-hour guided outdoor tour at the Newport aquarium includes five exhibits:

  • The Turkey Vulture Exhibit featuring siblings Olive and Ichabod, who were taken as hatchlings into a private home, then turned over to wildlife rehabilitation specialists. Acclimated to humans, they could not be released into the wild and found a home at the aquarium in 2009;
  • The Sea Otter Exhibit of northern sea otters, playful little critters known to come up to the window to engage with visitors;
  • The Seabird Aviary Exhibit, the largest in North America with two pools home to tufted puffins, horned puffins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and common murres;
  • The Rocky Habitat Exhibit featuring intertidal life normally found in the rocky shores exhibits, minus the touch pool;
  • The Seals and Sea Lion Exhibit with a recently expanded viewing area allowing visitors “to get up close and personal with the pinnipeds.”

KEEPING IN THE VEIN OF A LITTLE GOOD NEWS from the arts and animal worlds, The Secret Gallery in Astoria announced its virtual auctions have raised $1,625 for Clatsop Animal Assistance.

The Secret Gallery held six online auctions for custom pet portraits, from May 1 through July 31. Winners of each auction will receive a custom framed portrait of their pet.

“Clatsop Animal Assistance sends a huge thank you to The Secret Gallery, the participating artists and the bidders for this very creative virtual fundraiser,” Marcy Dunning, president of the group, said in a press release. “What a great way for our community to support Clatsop Animal Assistance AND local artists during the pandemic.”

Clatsop Animal Assistance, a nonprofit animal welfare organization, supports the Clatsop County Animal Shelter by paying for veterinary care and other necessities and by promoting the shelter’s adoption program.