Soul Stirring.

An Interview with Lori The Knife.

I live in Chesterton, Indiana where the sidewalks end and the land becomes the lake. A town filled with little shops and restaurants housed in 100 year old homes and pretty as pebbles on the beach that I take my children to. All of this is a stone's throw away from some of the biggest steel mills in the nation. Pretty and ugly, yet beautiful in my eyes. My house is painted the brightest green on my block.

When I was 9 years old my parents enrolled me in an adult still-life class from the Indiana Arts Association, which was out of a basement with a small gallery up top in Hammond. My teacher was Nikki Kuzmich and he taught me so many essential artistic habits really early in my life. I remember being thrilled that Nikki and my classmates took me seriously and didn't talk down to me, and I worked hard at learning to put milk crates, stools, pots, shoes and other brick-a-brack onto toned pastel paper with a set of Conte Crayons (raw Sienna, black and white hard pastels made in Paris).  Every class, I left messy. Shirt, pants, and hands would be filthy from the use of those pastels, and the smell of the sealant (aquanet hairspray) always left me slightly light headed as the 2 hour class would come to an end. Those classes are where the spark was lit. At the time my parents were happy that I had found something that kept me out of trouble and were proud of the work I was bringing home. Approval and respect were powerful motivators for me as a young girl, and as I started honing my skills I tried all kinds of different mediums. I was told they are tools and you yourself are the craft. It doesn't matter what you have in your hand. Nikki was a fabulous teacher (he's retired now), and I took a variety of classes from him all the way into adulthood and even after college.

I would say that I'm generally pretty happy. Even on bad days, I can find something good to take away from it.  Every morning I take my kids to school by 8:00, then I come home and begin the process of getting ready to work, make coffee, have a cigarette and stretch. I may do light housework if there’s something that needs my attention. Then I descent to the basement, where I’ll work. I use music to remind myself to stop and step back,  looking at what I'm doing and stretching, because I lose time so easily.  I call it entering the flow, when time and space don't matter. It's just me and the process of whatever I’m creating at the time. It can be incredibly lonely but I know how to keep myself entertained. I think of Mr. Rogers and I simply use my imagination. I set alarms for myself so I know when I need to stop so I can pick up my children from school. Then nightly family routines, like playing outside, homework, dinner, free time, baths and bed for the children. I then make a pot of coffee or drink a couple of beers and begin what I call my magic time. I have always enjoyed the quiet of the night to work.  I listen to music and blaze away at the current project until I'm too tired to continue. Those are the "9-5" of my work week. 

I do a lot of things on the weekends that fuel my creative fires, like museums, art events, concerts and trips to surrounding states with my family. When I'm alone at home I have a lot of art from many different artists hanging on my walls, it helps me to stop and drink in the work of another creative. Even if it's a piece of art I've owned for 20 years, it still can teach me something. I'm highly sentimental about the art that I've collected, because it usually means that I've met that artist and that connection is special to me.  It's a core part of what I do when I paint monsters into thrift store paintings. I'm looking to connect with an artist I've never met by making a harmony between what I put in the painting and what is already there.  

However the most influence over my work is probably my kids, they like to give me suggestions and ideas, and honestly they are usually right on the mark with what I need to be doing. I also want to inspire them, so I'm always striving to impress them by pushing the limits of what I can do with the materials that I have on hand. Sometimes they can be a couple of hard nosed critics when it comes to art.  Trying to materialize what they imagine can be disastrous, but failure is also a lesson. Seeing Mom fall off a skateboard and bust her ass is a pretty funny failure in their eyes. Fuck it's funny in my eyes, too.

I listen to music almost constantly. I find it sets the tone for whatever I'm working on, and if it feels right, I will listen to something on a continuous loop, sometimes for several months. It might be a record side that really resonates with me, so I just keep on it ‘til I'm tired of it or the project is done. I also listen to pandora a lot so I can have a station of a relatively unknown artist and hear other similar artists that I would have never heard on the radio, which I always have on in the car. I like a variety of music, but right now it's a lot of folk indie, blue eyed soul and adult alternative. I also love hearing new and emerging artists. I did a whole showcase of the vinyl I listened to in November's vinyl challenge on Instagram. Going to concerts is a big deal to me, I love the energy and the people and the way it feels when a crowd is all singing along with a band.  

Usually I get in a funk right after I finish a painting, and sometimes the longer it takes, the deeper the depression. I like to try and counter that by using a sketchbook and taking a short break from the medium that I just used so I don't feel too much pressure to try and outdo myself on the next painting. I have to remember that it's not a production line of painting, but an artistic journey for me and that includes highs and lows. I also try and just keep on keeping on, but if something isn't working for me, then I'll transition to something that maybe I'm more mentally prepared for. Trying to force it doesn't work for me very often. Another way that I combat artistic roadblocks is to go through what I call the 3 C's; create, consume, contemplate. Those are the 3 states that I try and balance myself in.

Connection is my favorite theme to play with, I hope that those that view my work will want to come back and view more, to get sucked into my world of make-believe and get lost for a moment. The trifecta of connection; viewer, art and artist together in the same room is my favorite part about showing my work to other people. I also use a lot of symbolism and humor, some of it is very blatant, other stuff is a little more subversive. It's fun for me to thumb my nose at the seriousness of it all, and I like to be as bold as possible. The duality of being a serious artist, but not taking myself too seriously is a hard line to try and walk sometimes. So I try to use the titles of my paintings to add to the experience of viewing them. If I can add a joke or pun into something that already is funny, and it gets someone chuckling, that's the cherry on top for me.

I would not have the ability to do what I do now in the same capacity if it were not for the love and support of my husband, Tom. He’s an amazing artist in his own right. I also lean on my art school buddies Chris Kuchta and Jeff Styles when it comes to some of the nuts and bolts of the work itself, trusting that if something is sucking they will absolutely let me know why it sucks, which is helpful. It's inspirational to see Alec Villarreal take Mythos to new places and pushing new boundaries with it, I'm flattered as fuck to be a part of Alchemy & Elegy. Nick Gloom, Casey King, Jess Haug, Bearhead and Melissa Washburn all inspire me with the amazing art that they continue to produce. I'm always happy to see their art in person or online. I'm also going to shout out on the small business that have housed my work. If it wasn't for them, I would have a lot more paintings cluttering up the corners of my house. Special thanks to, Librarium Cafe and Green Door Books in Hobart; Society, Fluid Cafe and Elements wine bar in Valpo; Promise You Art House in Highland; Wildrose Brewing in Griffith; the South Shore Arts Center in Munster and The Oddball Art Labs group in Elgin.

I've had people who have taken my art home, send me pictures, invite me over for parties and tell me stories about the art. Honestly I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude for these interactions. To hear that what I do is valued by someone is nothing short of soul-stirring for me. 

All I could ask for is to be an artist, a passionate creator, and a dreamer until the day I die.

My name is Lori the Knife or Lori Jackson or LMJ and once upon a time Lori Megyesi. I'm a Northwest Indiana artist. I dislike bananas and Facebook. Sometimes I'm an asshole.

@Alchemy & Elegy 2020