Disgruntled Elites * Digital Photography * Joe Lugara

I’ve been an abstract painter for decades. When I began producing digital photographs about six years ago, it was with the goal of pushing them away from traditional photography and a little closer to painting.

232: Purplish void at the center of a petal like material. As if the flower is an entrance into another dimension. There are small spherical orbs in purple and white and a small flaming sun. with other ghostly impressions. Strange speckles of purple. At the top, a green stem as if the flower were hanging down.

To do that, I needed to find painterly tools within the software that would enable me to make brushstrokes akin to those in my oils, acrylics, and watercolors.

411: Looking down into a flower from above with lots and lots of red petals with black specks and white edges. And in the dark center, a white sphere almost like a pearl. White reflections and green foliage. All is blurred as if shaky or unstable.

These florals, from a series called “Disgruntled Elites,” are more commonly known around the studio as “curious flowers.” As a lifelong fan of vintage horror and science fiction movies of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, I simply can’t seem to fully accept the way anything in nature actually appears—I need to modify things in some manner in order to make them otherworldly.

708: Purple and white flowers with darker veins of purple. These Elites Could be orchids. Ghostly yellow sphere, small and floating. One of the stems is super brightly lit. Lots of black negative space.

I wanted the “Elites” to have the strangeness of the fictional Tibetan Mariphasa lupine lumina that functions as a temporary antidote for lycanthropy in Werewolf of London (1935), or the countless odd botanicals that sprout on other planets in sci-fi movies.

700: Another plastic warped and weathered film through which you see a plant with a flower figure of reds and maroons and shadows of black nooks. In the background fern type leaves. Then maybe more of these red flower figures. From the flower figure, a white light streaks up into a purple sphere almost like the clouds of a gas giant.

It’s a type of thinking that I apply to all my work—to throw the viewer a bit off balance, either with abstract forms that are vaguely suggestive of things in nature, or with natural forms that have been changed just enough to give them a sense of wonder and mystery. The “Elites” are in that latter category. They should be wondrous and a bit ominous too.

699: The surface of the image is scratched as if we are looking at the Elites through a once clear plastic pane. You must strain to see a white flower behind with some green foliage and stems. Then a hole into blackness as if the thing is drilled. Another sphere like a planetary body. Touches of blood red on either side.

Think of it this way: If you produced a straightforward photo or a painting of a rose, the viewer would bring all their knowledge of a rose—the texture of its petals, the sharpness of the thorns, its fragrance—to the picture, and any mystery about the subject would go out the window right then and there.

689: Seems as if there is a table bisecting a portrait. On top of the surface are thick green stems with flashes of color: blue, yellow, some possible reflections on a wall. Green leafy foliage. Blurry foreground, sharp in the distance. A streak of light runs along the surface from left to right like a tracer. Below the surface are light pink flowers, very dense. And then more green stems hanging down into blackness.

A rose can certainly hold its own in the real world or in any art medium, but I’m a typical artist in the sense that I make the kinds of images that as a viewer I like to look at. I enjoy odd little twists, so I put odd little twists into my curious flowers, and everything else.

406: Yellow color field. Shapes appear as ridges that make it appear to be a flower. White reflective bits, as if an eraser had been taken to it. Extreme close-up.

The flowers were all photographed in my home state of New Jersey. Altering them as I do, in whatever measure, is like transferring them to other worlds and letting them evolve in strange environments under different conditions—new specimens to challenge our established concepts.

278: Appears to be a stem and a leaf, green moving into a small pink bulb with a black pupil marked as if by a reflection, like the bulb is looking at you. Another bulb in the background. Also a blue orb floating in the background and a misty swirling blue—one of the Disgruntled Elites?—in the distance.

—About the Artist—

Joe Lugara took up painting and photography as a boy after his father discarded them as hobbies. His works depict odd forms, 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.

Mr. 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.

www.joelugara.com. www.instagram.com/joelugara. www.facebook.com/joelugara1art. www.twitter.com/joelugara.