Lorette C. Luzajic studied for and received a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in journalism, but went on to focus on creative work in visual art, photography, poetry, and writing about art. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review at www.ekphrastic.net, a journal dedicated exclusively to literature inspired by visual artwork, and her own poems and stories have been published in around 200 magazines, journals and blogs.
Artist Lorette C. Luzijac in her studio in Toronto, Canada
Lorette teaches workshops on ekphrastic writing and on art without drawing. Her art shows regularly at home in Toronto, Canada, including at the Spoke Club, the Gladstone Hotel, Artusiasm Gallery, the Flying Pony Gallery, the Ritz Carlton, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, the Toronto Artist Project, Hashtag Gallery, Project Gallery, and more. She has also shown work further afield, including Brisbane, Bristol, Edinburgh, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, New York, and other American cities. She recently participated in an international artists symposium in Tunisia, working to create paintings for the Ministry of Culture and to show in two exhibitions in Tunis and Hammamet. She also visited Mexico recently for a duet exhibition at Le Cirque Galeria in Merida, Yucatan and a number of group shows at other venues.
"I am driven by eclectic curiosity, and by the joy of juxtaposition. My work is a curiosity cabinet and an apothecary of magic potions and spells. It is poetry, and a surreal dream. It is the frantic pace of the city and the magnificent silence of the night. It is about love and death and the sacred and inane, and the absurdity and beauty in all things." - Lorette C. Luzajic
Compared to Rauschenberg, Schwitters, and Basquiat, and inspired by Warhol, Joseph Cornell, Robert Motherwell, and Antoni Tapies, Lorette C. Luzajic wears her influences on her sleeve. Appropriating relentlessly from art history, advertising, music, poetry, fiction, culture, religion, and travel, she plunders everything but creates work that is original and entirely her own.
Lorette's use of materials reflects the same montage quality as the varied concepts that inspire her. She uses acrylic paint, gouache paint, watercolour, spray paint, ink, fabric paint, chalk pastel, oil stick, oil pastel, crayons, pencil crayons, graphite, found papers, found photographs, found images, house paint, plaster, silicone, pen, markers, cosmetics, glues, stickers, and any other media she can incorporate.
"A collagist is always looking, always deconstructing and reconstructing. From dentist waiting room magazines to church hymnals to art history masterpieces at the museum to nightclub flyers, my mind is constantly snipping, juxtaposing, discovering, experimenting, replacing, gluing over, scraping back layers, recontextualizing." - Lorette C. Luzajic
Her mixed media paintings have found homes all over the world, and hang in collections alongside originals by Miro, Erte, Dubuffet, Ellsworth Kelly, Jim Dine, Jane Ash Poitras, and Benjamin Chee Chee.
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
I was always an unusually imaginative and creative thinker, and for as far back as I can remember, I knew it was my destiny to have an unconventional life. There was never a question in my mind that I would be a writer. I started writing as soon as I could write, and began publishing poetry and short fiction while still in elementary school. I used my creativity in other ways, too, making all kinds of things like beads and teapots and collages. I loved art history and studied it throughout my life, taking the bus into Toronto to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario as a tween. But I didn't have much flare for drawing, so I never considered using the word "artist" in my dreams.
Life is full of surprises, however, and fate has its own twists and turns you can't anticipate. I studied journalism in order to find a "sensible" outlet for my writing. I'm grateful I didn't endure a "sensible" outlet for my visual gifts and continued to study and experience art independently. I always loved cutting up images and composing them in different ways. One day I made a Tarot deck in order to better understand archetypal imagery, and because I couldn't draw the way I wanted to, I chose to use collage to create the 78 cards. Fate was unleashed then and there. I had just graduated from journalism school and never did use that degree except to start some creative writing projects- I was hooked instead on the thrill of juxtaposing cut up images, and wanted to develop my knack for colour and composition.
Because a few people asked to buy some of the cards, I foolishly thought art would be easy to sell and manically began creating all kinds of works and hosting shows with other artists. I've never looked back.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Urban abstract, sometimes, playful surrealism at other times. My styles change. What remains the same is the foundation of collage. I want to explore all the ways in which one can use collage to create something, and invent new ways.
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
Eclectic curiosity. I want to know everything. I'm hungry for experience and amusement and mystery, and my nature is chaos, and to process all of that I need a lot of creative outlets. My artwork and my writing are all inspired by other literature and art, as well as travel, especially to Mexico, by the human religious imagination, by music, by cities, by technology, cinema, you name it.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I am committed to mixed media, to using as much variety as I can. I view my materials and media as part of the concept of collage. I collage images, I collage and remix themes and inspirations, and I use a wide variety of media too. My staples are cut up imagery and text and acrylic paint, but I also use spray paint, gouache, watercolour, pencil crayons, pencil, ink, powder pigment, wax crayons, tape, conte, oil sticks, pastels, glazes, house paint, and anything else I can get my hands on.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?
I rise and shine around six a.m. and begin work at my desk. I have a journal called The Ekphrastic Review (www.ekphrastic.net) that needs constant administrative work and is also a source of inspiration, as it is focused on writing inspired by visual art. I respond to emails and other tasks of organization, too, such as proposals for shows or applications or submissions. I try to tend to deadlines and prioritize things I'm putting off.
Then I can get to the fun stuff for awhile, studio time. I infuse my studio work with a lot of research on the field, in reading and study, in looking. So part of it is making, collecting collage imagery, playing with paints and pens, and another part is visiting galleries, looking things up at the library, attending festivals or experiences of sorts, reading, talking with people.
There are errands every day, too, picking up artworks from shows and delivering them, packaging things to ship, this kind of thing. Meetings with people I work with.
In the evenings, I walk alone, socialize recreationally, or spend time with my boyfriend. Or sometimes evenings mean fun work, attending an opening or event for myself or peers. If I'm lucky enough to have nothing pencilled in, then I might get some creative writing done. I like to have a glass of wine or two and be by myself at home, with my art books or poetry, thinking and writing.
It's always Monday for me, regardless of the day of the week. There are exceptions for family visits or travel or life, but the majority of the time, this is what it is. To allow the muse, you have to give time for her to appear. You also have to do grunt work like filling out applications and delivering works on the subway. I guard my solitude greedily because you need time to explore the world and time to allow ideas to percolate and incubate, then come together. A canvas can sometimes come to life in a day, but really, it took a lifetime.
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
I always have numerous pieces and projects on the go. I move between multiple works and multiple projects all the time. The energy and creativity and train of thought and research for one project fuels inspiration and new ways of thinking for the others. They feed off of each other.
I envy people who have great focus and a linear train of thought. The idea of methodically executing a task from beginning to end holds great appeal to me. But it's not how my brain works. The fall out for my kind of idea-generative brain is how much time gets wasted starting new things that never get finished, how many things get lost in the shuffle, and how difficult it is to focus and complete something. Starting is easy. I have thousands of files of started stories, project ideas, whole lists of possibilities for poetry or painting. If I could put half of that open ended energy into completing difficult tasks or prioritizing, I might have a more manageable life and be better able to keep track of my tasks and bank account. But I don't. I have a mind that can get totally spun out spinning off associations. One thing leads to another and to another until I'm completely gone, spread so thin, way out in the atmosphere.
I have learned to rein some of this in. Just as methodical minds can learn to brainstorm and find new ideas and associations, generative brains like mine can learn a bit about organizing our internal mess and finishing some of what we start. We are all different and have challenges and gifts that our natural to our temperament.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
There are too many of us now. While there are more opportunities, more buyers, more jobs, more interest in art, more technology for self promotion, than at any other time in the history of the world, we also get lost in the flow. When anyone can be an artist, then everyone is. There are millions of us. This can be very intimidating. I found it scary and difficult to ground myself at one point, but I have changed my mind by believing there is room for all of us. My challenge is to set myself apart, and to be the most creative I can be for its own sake.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Ditch all the theory crap about deconstruction and identity politics and get a good education in art history. It teaches you more about politics, religion, psychology, literature, geography, people, philosophy, the world, and everything that happens and how people perceive it than anything else.
And find your strength inside your shortcoming. Whatever it is that is "wrong" or "weak" or "difficult" about your work is where your gift is, too. For example, my weakness was the most important skill in art-drawing- it almost kept me from my fate. Thankfully, I was, by accident of fate reminded of my love of collage, but that shortcoming has been why my whole work has been about collage, and why I've found such an unusual practice exploring the relatively new in history media of collage cut and paste. By necessity, my focus wasn't on the usual skills but on inventing new paths in visual art.
It takes some discernment to see how to turn your shortcoming into a strength. Don't assume that any criticism is because someone doesn't get your genius or understand you! But the answer to your uniqueness might be in developing what's different about your talent and skill set, and turning it around with persistence and intuition.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
Because I can't do it myself, I admire the skill of rendering realistically and drawing and painting representationally. I often joke that I have "realist envy."
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
The strength and charm of my artwork is definitely how "busy" it is and the element of "muchness" in it. But it's also the main drawback or downfall. I have destroyed a lot of images by overdoing it. They get so busy they are convoluted or there is nowhere to go. I have strengthened my composition, balance, colour, and emotional impact by learning over the years to leave space, or streamline to some degree, and my works have gotten much stronger by allowing some space for the mind and eye to wander in. A little restraint has gone a long way. I could use more of it, though - I still overdo it all the time and sabotage perfectly inspired pieces. It's a journey.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now my focus is twofold: my square foot product line of 12x12" collage paintings on canvas, which are all about the playful placement of images, vignettes or surreal snippets, if you will, and also on epic wall sized pieces with an urban or street aesthetic, on raw canvas. I'm making work that I couldn't fit through my door or in my elevator if it was stretched or mounted.
The smaller pieces have always been something I love to do. It allows me such a range of possibilities with collage, because most imagery comes from books, newspapers, magazines or brochures, and smaller images and words can get lost in a massive piece. I'm able to explore a range of subjects and ideas.
Right now I'm working on a series inspired by poets and writers, as well as a few where I'm letting my darker imagination take over. I've always enjoyed cinema and stories that gave consideration to our shadow side, because emotions like fear, rage, and grief are as essential to our being human as joy and love. While I don't romanticize violence or agony, they are real, they are part of us, and I tend to use a kind of twisted sense of humour to deal with them.
I also continue my experiments with an urban abstract vibe in both large and small format. The impression you get of looking around a city, its energy, its fragments of words and ads, the movement of traffic and shapes, the structures around you, the composition of architecture and lines, the peeling paint and textures of deconstruction, all of this plays into my abstracts. I am sometimes but seldom inspired by nature- my abstracts come from the cities I love most: like Toronto, my home, and Mexico City, the most colourful and chaotic place I've ever been.
To view Lorette's full collection - The Online Art Gallery of Lorette C. Luzajic