WHILE working on her BFA in studio art, Joan McLoughlin
received a landscape assignment. As an avid gardener,
it would have been easy to paint scenes of fauna and
flora. She decided on another approach, one that would
later reveal her interpretation of art and creation.
“I did a person holding hand grenades. He had a big triangular piece
of green paper coming out of his body where his head should be. I was
thinking about what we do to the earth, and I handed it in as a landscape,”
McLoughlin says. “I took a chance and got an A. It got selected into a nation-al
drawing and print competition. That encouraged me to do my own thing.
Once you know the rules, you can break them. That’s what I decided to do.”
Today, her body of work is dominated by abstract art, a style she originally
used to let loose within an educational discipline of realism. Her paintings
inspire imagination yet imitate reality in her floral or woodland pieces.
At her home studio, a painting is propped on the wall. Thick brush strokes
layer violet, teal and gray into the appearance of a hat-draped silhouette
holding a bouquet. It is a visual the viewer might have to confirm with
“Yes, it is a woman holding flowers,” she laughs. “It’s actually called,
Have You Seen Her?”
Yellow Bird has a similar approach, once the eyes focus on the subject.
Much like waking up in the middle of the night, bleary eyed as objects slowly
take shape, McLoughlin’s work comes into focus the more you look at it.
This is evidenced in her Faceless series, which began as a Christmas card.
“My husband said to me, ‘Why don’t you do a church with a bunch of
people walking up to the church?’ and I said, ‘Because I don’t do realistic.’
What I did was my version of the church, and these were the people,” she
says. “Some people say they look like candles and that’s fine. I love when
people see different things in my art.”
While today her paintings celebrate nature and color, her creativity orig-inated
from photography. She received a camera as a child, and working
with film became a passion, including experimenting with development
techniques later in life. After her children left for college, she decided it was
time to finally pursue her creative dreams. She enrolled at Notre Dame of
Maryland University, double majoring in photography and studio art.
“As cameras went more digital, I felt I had to focus more if I wanted to be
a painter,” she says. “I had to paint more and not split the time. That’s why I
gave up the photography; I never really went back for a while.”
That is until she received a Christmas card with a black and white photo-graph
of her and her two sisters captioned, “Sisters, dolls, life was so simple.”
This inspired a mixed media series utilizing family photographs and abstract
art. She included the photo her sister sent in So Simple Then.