Lori’s Ark: A Six-Pack with Lori Damiano

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I’m a huge fan of Lori Damiano’s paintings and animations; I also really love Will Oldham’s music, so when I saw that Lori and Will had teamed up on a children’s book, I was ecstatic. Shorty’s Ark is a 22-page hardcover publication celebrating the diversity and fragility of planet Earth. Curious as to how this whole thing materialized, I reached out to Lori to get the skinny.

Michael Sieben: Did you know Will Oldham before working on this project? How did you make his acquaintance?

Lori Damiano: I sent an unsolicited letter to Will 20 years ago that was a hand-written report based on some hearsay that the moon broke off of Earth precisely from the earthly coordinates I called home. That first letter to Will was a play-by-play of my expedition through the canyon where I lived, searching for terrestrial evidence that could substantiate the giant impact theory of lunar formation. Enclosed with the letter, I mailed “moon” rocks I recovered on my quest. I might add I have absolutely no qualifications to make geological determinations. Anyway, Will received my weird letter with otherworldly grace and has since been a treasured pen pal. He has collected my art over the years and also invited me to create art for some of his music and to illustrate the frontispiece for his book Songs of Love and Horror.

I’ve always thought your illustrations would be perfect for children’s books. Is this the first one you’ve worked on? Any plans for future books for kids?

Thank you! I have always daydreamed about making picture books but this was the first opportunity I have ever had to make one. I would absolutely love to do more children’s books in the future. At the moment, I’m working on a project that involves animating for a similar audience of Earth’s newest humans.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Being entrusted with visually interpreting this song written by Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney was such an immense honor and privilege. I took this assignment so seriously that it was hard to get started. In order to relax into my standard operating procedure of a playful, exploratory art-making mind mode, I had to put those momentous feelings aside. I think the whole time, a part of me found it necessary to just pretend this project was imaginary. That same part of me almost couldn’t believe it when the real book showed up in the mail one day.

What about the most rewarding aspect? 

Being present to witness kids and adults turning the pages of this book for the first time is one of the most magical and fulfilling experiences I have ever had as an artist. When someone starts reading the book in front of me and I get to see them receive and display a joy that Will, Matt Sweeney, Drag City Records, and I helped to supply, it is a true wonder! 

What have the reactions been like, watching people read it in person?

Something that I have marveled at is how much both kids and parents alike delight in discovering all of the little surprise details I painted into each scene.

What’s next for you? What’s something you’re looking forward to in the not-so-distant future?

I have had the great fortune of being gifted a giant hand-me-down floor loom. I’m a new weaver and I have been trying to solve the puzzle of how to get this contraption going. I am really looking forward to unraveling all of the mysteries and finally weaving on it.

Loridamiano.com // This interview was originally published in our FALL 2023 Quarterly

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