Touched By Fire Artist Profile: Lorette C. Luzajic

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Over the next few months MDAO will be profiling Touched By Fire artists whose work has been included in the annual juried exhibition – the Touched By Fire Art Show and Sale. We recently caught up with Lorette C. Luzajic who shares her thoughts around her work and the program.

I first encountered Touched By Fire through the invitation of my friend, the amazing artist Joey DAMMIT! He was showing his work at one of the early exhibitions and I attended many of his shows. When I walked in, it was so horribly crowded that my anxiety took over and I felt I couldn’t even stay to see the work, but thankfully I ran into a new acquaintance, photographer Ralph Martin, and we got some wine and found a corner to talk in.

It was a very low period for me; I was in treatment and in mourning and looking for a reason to carry on with the struggle. And here were all these other artists who understood everything I was talking about. I made another dear friend that night, the brilliant Pat Moffatt, and there was encouragement and belonging. I felt I had “landed” in a safe spot to begin growing. After that, I volunteered putting up the shows and entered my own works every year. Things are so different now, in my outlook, my health and my career.

Touched By Fire is absolutely the bridge for me as an artist, between “there” and “here.” I have no way of knowing whether there would have been another bridge, but finding a creative community when I was surfacing from rock bottom and looking for meaning in the wreckage of my life was a saving grace.

I never had difficulty accepting my diagnosis of bipolar; rather, it made sense out of all that had never made sense before. But to have a network of other creatives who identified with my experiences and supported me was essential to my recovery and the confidence I gained as an artist. And frankly, walking into the Royal Ontario Museum at ten past the start and finding that all of my pieces had already sold was an adrenaline injection I’ll never forget.

I’m pretty candid about bipolar disorder; it was a relief, really, to have a vocabulary to make sense of decades of family chaos, blind impulsivity, addiction, and harrowing depression. In a holistic sense, the behaviour and experience profile of the “unquiet mind” is important. I’m involved with vital services like Workman Arts and the MDAO, and in continued treatment at CAMH, because bipolar is a lifelong journey and I am committed to taking good care of myself.

Still, I have to confess that there’s a certain chirpy, sanitized lens about mental illness that drives me nuts in the outreach and education communities. We’re presented in brochures and film shorts as smiling, happy, healthy, successful, multicultural families hacking away at the ol’ “stigma” with white-toothed shine. It’s not like that. Mental illness is ugly. Having a mother with borderline personality disorder meant unfathomable chaos, abuse, and mind games. Her children are inevitably “troubled.” Being unstable has taken its toll on everything in my life, financially, relationships, family. There has been death, emptiness, addiction, and disorder.

Rebuilding after losing everything is terribly slow and painful. I don’t mind talking about any of these things, but I don’t need to, and I also don’t want to subject people constantly to negative things. But I won’t lie and make them shiny, so most of the time I talk instead about my work. All of this stuff is there, in my work, anyways.


Images © Lorette Luzajic

The connection to Touched By Fire has been vital for the experience of working with others who understand and support this part of me, and I am proud to share that. The openness toward a variety of expressions and styles has made each show an outstanding event. I see so many art shows and events, and still conclude that Touched By Fire raises the bar. I believe the combination of art world professionals and being outside of that world, passion not bound by its fickle changes and limitations, is what makes Touched By Fire such an incredible production.

I’ve been volunteering with Touched By Fire for many years and a planning committee member for two, and this was the first time I worked as curator for the event, along with Stephen Schwartz of Engine Gallery. Considering that last year there were several days to set up, and this year we had six hours, I think it was an amazing show!

My artwork reflects my hunger to know and experience everything, and its euphoric, aggressive pulse certainly acts as a release of excess energy that I can’t contain. Some shows emotional distress, others show my love affair with this beautiful world- it really depends on the moment, on the project. My moods shift up and down so quickly that many contain both. I use everything from acrylic paint to chalk to graphite to collage so I call my work “mixed up media” and that kind of gets the idea across.

In terms of economic opportunity for artists, there has never been a better time or more potential and possibility of exposure, so in many respects that also means the market is saturated with countless numbers of artists. Self branding, marketing, these are difficult things for an artist, and they continue to present to me the most challenging aspect of my work. I find the social demands of “getting out there” exhausting and anxiety inducing, and I continue to work on overcoming those stressors. Everyone has different challenges and we grow by facing them. The thing we most desperately need is to build skills in professional development, and in many respects Touched By Fire supports that.

To see the work Lorette submitted to Touched By Fire in 2013 and read her statement visit

Find out more about Lorette at