John Lurie is well known for a number of things; from fusing avant garde jazz and No Wave music with the Lounge LIzards in late 70s New York to his acting work in the films of Jim Jarmusch (not to mention his many scoring credits.) Though dogged by his fair share of bad luck—including being struck with chronic Lyme disease, and his travails with alleged stalker John Perry (which we have covered previously on Dangerous Minds)—Lurie has always managed to retain his impeccable sense of cool, making him a hero for many.
One area of Lurie’s life that I personally didn’t know much about till now was his artwork. Since being affected by Lyme disease in 2000, Lurie has been focussed intently on his work with the canvas and brush, work which contains equal measures of absurd humor and genuine insight, even if it’s refracted through an almost child-like naiveté.
Last week my friends at the blog Generation Bass managed to get a short, exclusive interview with Lurie about his artwork. Having not covered this aspect of his prolific output here on Dangerous Minds before, I am glad to be able to republish some of that article here. Many thanks to the good folks at Generation Bass, in particular DJ Umb, for this brief but intriguing interview with a modern legend.
John Lurie “Buffalo”
Generation Bass: Many of us would like to think that we relate to you because we’re outsiders. For many you epitomize that “outsider” characteristic. Would that be a fair assessment of you or is it wide off the mark?
John Lurie: I am not sure what you mean by “outsider” here. I try to stay as close as I can to what I feel is real, ignoring whatever the popular trends are. I am not sure what I am outside of. I think that anyone following the trail of babble and unaware of what’s really real is actually the outsider, even if there are a lot of them.
GB: You said that your painting “The Spirits Are Trying To Tell Me Something But It’s Really Fucking Vague” is somewhat autobiographical. Can you expand upon that? I mean can you tell us what the spirits were/are trying to tell you, even if it’s really fucking vague.
JL: Well that is kind of private but mostly very difficult to explain. It does seem that for a long while there, things had gone so perfectly, inexplicably wrong that it had to mean something. But was kind of a joke because you can’t really blame the spirits, has to be the receptor that isn’t working so well.
John Lurie “Bear Surprise”
GB: How did you feel when your painting “Bear Surprise” went viral in Russia in 2006 as an Internet meme
John Lurie: I don’t know. Some of the silly paintings are bad on purpose. That being one of them. So that it went viral was a little odd. I mostly just thought – What the fuck…? And then I thought – There are no copyright laws in Russia?
GB: Which of your own work is your most favourite painting or holds most significance for you and why?
JL: Oh I don’t know, I probably have 20 favorites. “Wednesday,” I guess has the most significance
GB: Do you have any upcoming public exhibitions? If so, where?
JL: No, nothing. Isn’t that kind of amazing? The art world and I don’t seem to be on speaking terms.
John Lurie “Wednesday”
GB: John, you’re notorious as a bad boy but you’re still here. Even though you can’t do films and music anymore since the onset of chronic Lyme disease, you’re still being an artist, you’re painting. You’re still in the public eye, being funny and at times, bad. Don’t you think that’s ironic? In some strange but beautiful and twisted way, you’ve become a kind of “positive” role model to people. You’re dealing with huge health issues but that hasn’t deterred your artistry. Everyday you’re battling on, still being honest and still creating beauty! You’re still an inspiration to many the world over no matter how beat up and broken you might be or feel you are.
What would you say to this?
JL: I don’t know, what’s a bad boy?
I am in a situation that is very isolated and not so easy for that reason. Then we get an email from Romania or Argentina saying how much the paintings mean to them and how they helped them through a really hard time. In turn that helps me back through a really hard time. Is pretty cool that.
I wonder if Tilda Swinton got letters like that after sleeping at MOMA.
GB: If you could live your life all over again, is there anything you would change?
JL: I don’t think like that. At all.
GB: If Marvin Pontiac were still alive today, what do you think is the most important lesson he would have learned in his life and what particular advice do you think he’d be kind enough to impart to the people of the world?
JL: Watch out for buses.
John Lurie “The Spirits Are Trying To Tell Me Something But It’s Really Fucking Vague”
Thanks again to DJ Umb. You can read the full unabridged piece on the Generation Bass website. You can find (and buy) more of John Lurie’s art on the website John Lurie Art.com.