Joe Lugara

Union NJ Gray Drawing 3 (from "Cluster" series)    Liquid Pencil    7 x 5


Many years ago I was a film student. Silly as it now seems, what I wanted was to make horror films. Growing up I loved the horror films of the thirties and forties made by Universal Studios and as a young filmmaker I wanted to capture and build on their visual style and knack for running imaginatively amuck. Well, a film career never happened for me, although aspects of those movies found their way into my drawings and paintings. I don’t produce Draculas and Frankensteins anymore, although I can say with confidence that something of the spirit of those films has remained in my work: that sense they had that the world is a mysteriously appealing but also mysteriously perilous place, something to be approached with both wonder and caution. I’m not referring to the exaggerated ideas of good and evil, but to ambiguity, to the dangers that exist in even the most innocuous-looking things, to our inability to distinguish what’s harmless from what’s dangerous merely by sight, and often not even as the result of experience. Your beloved pet can still claim your ear. Your mushrooms can still poison you. Some of my pictures, I admit, are pretty. But that doesn’t mean they’re benign. They should cause you to ask, “If that shape in the painting were real, would I touch it?”

​ In light of this duality, logic and reasoning take a bad hit. We can educate ourselves to recognize the poisonous mushroom but how do we know it hasn’t been contaminated in some way? Happenstance is always the boss. In the horror movie universe, as in the real one, logic and order are constantly undermined by that general randomness that seems to dictate how things happen and when. The randomness of the universe is bigger than anyone’s reason. It’s what guides my hand as I paint. It’s my acknowledgement of a greater force.  

​ And for me, that’s the most frightening thing: to not be able to reason with something, to avoid the world’s dangers despite knowledge, experience, eloquence, logic. But in art, if your reason has been disarmed, you have the chance to encounter qualities that—might—cause you some unease, but which also might reward you in some way. I want to place the viewer between the wondrous and the ominous, and disarm their reason.


Never Saw It Again     Watercolor and Ink 10 x 8