Local artist Michael Torra’s life is centered around the Borderstan area. His first apartment was a studio on R Street NW, and he has lived in Dupont Circle since he moved to the District more than 15 years ago. Inevitably, the shapes and colors of the neighborhood have made their way into his paintings.
Cityscapes from the Rooftop
The most obvious influence can be seen in Torra’s cityscape series, which portrays the skylines of his rooftop views. His surroundings have also had a more subtle influence in the work of his sun series.
“I knew I wanted to create some sort of abstraction of the sun as a vehicle for playing with yellows and oranges,” he said. “As I thought about how I would structure the piece, I finally figured it out one day walking past the fountain in the Circle, looking at the ground and how the slabs of the concrete under my feet were shaped. I ended up basing the geometric structure of those paintings off the shapes of those concrete slabs.”
Painting has been a passion of Torra’s since he moved to the area, but it wasn’t his first creative interest.
“At college in Los Angeles I took a lot of art classes, all in sculpture, until my senior year when it dawned on me that after I graduated, I wouldn’t be able to afford welding torches, band saws and all the other equipment I had access to as a student,” he said. He decided to take a painting class and immediately fell in love. Torra admits it took a while to develop his own style of painting, but classes at The Art League in Alexandria helped him establish his voice — creating abstract and non-representational works that balance form and color.
East Coast and West Coast
Torra has lived on both the West Coast, in Los Angeles, and the East Coast, just outside of Boston, Mass. Although he thought he would eventually return to his native California, he ended up calling the District home after moving to the Dupont Circle neighborhood in 1998. Like many DC transplants, Torra sought and eventually reached his goal of working on Capitol Hill. After a decade long career in politics, he joined a public affairs firm where he works with progressive organizations. According to Torra, his day job not only allows him to work on causes he cares about, but gives him the flexibility to work on his artistic endeavors.
Torra has previously participated in DC’s biggest creative event Artomatic, as well as ArtRomp, a curated group show at the Warehouse in Washington, DC. He will have two pieces in the upcoming group show at Art17 at Coldwell Banker (1606 17th Street NW) and will be participating in the Mid City Artists’ Open Studios May 18 and 19. For more information about Torra, please visit his website michaeltorra.com.