by Joe Lugara
These works are from two distinct series of digital paintings, Framework and Dark Oddities. I enjoy the clash of the man-made and the organic, the grids contrasting with the shape-shifting blobs.
The Framework series asks one of those short questions that begs a long answer: Am I inside or outside? The pictures offer seemingly objective experiences that turn uncomfortably subjective on the viewer. Does being on the “inside” mean being trapped or incarcerated, or does it mean being in the know and accepted?
The drops and splotches in the Dark Oddities are likewise objectively/subjectively charged. Alluding to specimens on microscope slides, they suggest things observed—scrutinized—and then make a U-turn on the viewer. The question they pose to me is whether their seemingly bloody forms are healthy or diseased. I find that my response depends on the size of the blotch or drop, and especially its shape. The simple fact that they’re red is a clincher for my recoiling nearly every time. The experience always hits me as a form of bigotry.
All art is contrast—light/dark, high note/low note, wide/narrow—but objective/subjective is the contrast with which all art begins. The artist adopts a point of view and works from that angle. These two series were made independently but they share that objective/subjective polarity. They lure with curious shapes and then ask discomfiting questions.
My abstract digital paintings are made from either new blank Photoshop files or from poor quality photographs that I’ve taken that I call, unimaginatively, “source photos”. The subjects of the source photos are as irrelevant as their quality. In the process of “painting” them with the software, they become entirely different from what they were. It’s a painterly approach, not a photographic one.
I’ll occasionally leave a trace of the source photo, if it adds something special to the work, but my goal is to generate a new image. I want the pieces to be otherworldly, a bit out of the realm of photography.
Joe Lugara took up painting and photography as a boy after his father discarded them as hobbies. His works depict odd forms and objects, inexplicable phenomena, and fantastic dreamscapes, taking as their basis horror and science fiction films produced from the 1930s through the late 1960s. He began creating digital paintings in the 2010s; they debuted in a 2018 solo exhibition at the Noyes Museum of Art in his home state of New Jersey.
Lugara’s work has been featured in several publications and has appeared in more than 40 exhibitions in museums and galleries in the New York metropolitan area, including the New Jersey State Museum and 80 Washington Square East Galleries at New York University. You can visit his website at joelugara.com
Raymond Rorke, Editor