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The dark humor of multimedia artist Kris Lorenzen

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-06-23


With artists, it sometimes happens that one creative outlet feeds another. Joni Mitchell called it “crop rotation” when she would take a break from singing and songwriting to paint for a season. Prince produces, arranges, and performs nearly all of his songs, and the artist Picasso would capriciously move from one visual media to another on a whim.

For the Fort Wayne artist Kris Lorenzen, the written word, music, and the comic are all outlets for his creative impulse. Like many true artists, Lorenzen has been working at his craft since childhood, not recalling exactly when he because interested in expressing his ideas, just knowing that the impulse has always been there. Lorenzen recalled his interest in writing probably stemming from the stories his father would tell him before bed as a child. “He would just make things up on the spot,” Lorenzen says. Fast forward more than a decade and this has percolated into many short stories and the beginnings of novels, some of which can be read at Lorenzen’s website, www.krislorenzen.com.

Lorenzen, originally from Fort Wayne, attended Ball State University studying journalism, creative writing, and English. After about eight years in Muncie and Indianapolis, Lorenzen returned to Fort Wayne a few years ago. Although he has been writing, drawing, and creating music for years now, Lorenzen recently decided to create a website so that people could see his work, and further discipline himself with scheduled updates.

“Things [on the website] aren’t connected, they are all separate projects.” Lorenzen says about each portion of the website. The comic that he is currently working on, “Look For Coffins,” has taken on a larger role, while the music section is still a bit of work in progress as Lorenzen is still figuring out how to allow streaming audio on the site. Lorenzen says this is all part of his “scattershot, schizophrenic nature.”

Although he prefers printed media over the web, Lorenzen, like so many other up-and-coming writers, are seeing the benefits of a website, being that there is so little overhead, as opposed to the self-publication of a novel, even through print on demand companies.

Lorenzen’s website is currently split up into two categories: words and comics. The words section is then divided into short stories and a serialized novel. Of the short stories, “The 8th Annabelle Riley” and “Backwards” seem to be adequate primers of Lorenzen’s originality, wit, and objectivity. I say objectivity for the lack of a better word to describe Lorenzen’s writing style, full of amoralistic tales where the reader is forced to identify with very unsettling characters and premises. He wraps you up in a way that leads you down twisted chains of logic, ones which you can actually get a thrill out of once you let yourself go. Hoping to get some sort of literary grounding while talking to Lorenzen I made the mistake of asking him who his favorite authors were. Lorenzen laughed at the impossibility of answer such a question and listed Warren Ellis, Margaret Atwood, James Elroy, and Neil Gaiman….just to name a few.

The comics section is then subdivided into “Look For Coffins” and Contemporary Silhouette Theatre.” Both of these comics use an absurdist Dadaistic humor, reminiscent of the current lineup of Cartoon Networks Adult Swim programs, or surreal and alternative comedy like Conan O’Brien and Jack Handey. “Look For Coffins” is a weekly comic, which features Walter and his Teddy Bear Buddy. Its dark humor includes the apparent death of his parents, a gun-toting grandmother, and Hitler-or someone resembling Hitler-as the delivery boy.

“Contemporary Silhouette Theatre,”the second regularly updated comic that Lorenzen produces, is an even darker, one frame comic which hosts a single or group of generic silhouetted figures. The arrangement of the figures is quite simple, and they are up against a drab brown background, framed with an intricate Victorian lace-like edge. These single frames sometimes have accompanying texts in the form of word bubbles, and are sometimes left blank for the viewers to fend for themselves.

Lorenzen and I then discussed Fort Wayne’s artworld in relation to writers. Other than “The Margin,”,which published Lorenzen’s work in its first issue, there are very few opportunities for emerging writers to gain exposure. Part of this, most likely, is due to the nature of Fort Wayne’s rather segregated art world, which tends to lump types of art into very basic taxonomies, i.e. Visual Art, Theatrical Performance which sort of overlaps into Musical Performance, and then the scattered Writers. This is a sad fact, because most of the vibrant, meaningful work usually comes to fruition through intensive crossbreeding between the arts.

The worst result of this artistic segregation is the current status of our city in relation to writers. Without any specific organizations of prominence to support them, writers must fend for themselves much more than other artists. Lorenzen’s success, in spite of being both a multimedia artist, and one with a concentration in writing, in a city, which tends to neglect both of those categories is a testament to his dedication and skill.

Lorenzen’s website, www.krislorenzen.com is updated constantly. “Look For Coffins” is updated every Monday, “Contemporary Silhouette Theatre” is updated every Wednesday and Friday. Short stories are updated as they are completed, and a serialized novel is updated every Thursday.

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