Experiencing the projects behind Michelle Loughery’s Bold Murals & Artwork
British Columbia based artist Michelle Loughery’s work stretches from massive community murals, portraiture to multi layered evocative, abstract encaustic studio work. More than three decades ago, Loughery’s artwork began to include creative tourism legacy models and youth trades and community skills training, to grow community projects in scale that entire communities were rebranded, and recreated in her collaborative approach creative placemaking work.
Born and raised in a rural coal town, the artist began to recognize a certain satisfaction she felt when working at a larger scale, and when youth and seniors from the community were engaged in the experience. From heritage themes, international music star themes, youth social change murals and crime prevention mental health projects, the art form would become integral to Loughery’s artistic exploration.
Inspired by those that challenged the social systems and injustices, two key attributes behind the design of the Internment Canada Sunflower Mural, Loughery created a colourful massive piece, named “The Sunflower Project’ as tribute to the men and women interned in Canada during world war one. Loughery’s great grandparents were effected by this Canadian injustice.
Loughery's passion for youth mentorship is evident in the development of her indigenous youth Wayfinder ArtWORKS Projects and during her career she has partnered with many government, education and community systems to support youth inclusion and skills building in the process behind each work and global project she has created.
To embrace the parallels between Loughery’s artwork and the communities she champions, requires understanding the process and key themes that inspire her practice.
“My mural work and my studio work are quite different,” she says. “The murals are a work of love and inclusion. It is a infrastructure work of art in action, that brings community together through community development, skills development, intergenerational mentorship knowledge exchange and social change. The mural becomes a sense of place, of return and of skills and story exchange, and a tourism legacy. The Rural Create model she consults on globally has created a legacy of renewed communities, engaged youth and elders, inclusive projects and job creation in creative economy streams.
The work also has much to do with the viewer.” Loughery muses “The work must make bold statements. Both visually or historically. Not always a positive statement, but one that invites people into the view. It is astounding to me that I painted so much of the past, talking to the people who experienced it, while painting in the present, teaching youth that would be leaders of tomorrow. My work is true time travel. The art itself a time machine.” If it does not have a bold impact right from the start, it can be easily dismissed. The art must celebrate diversity and unsung heroes.
Loughery’s studio artistic work began in the studio long before she painted outside. But her mural work and her studio work are both approached the same. Her murals are approached as a massive fine art pieces, never mapped or gridded. Loughery’s encaustic work is multi-layered and her process of taking away layers to reveal the work beneath the surface, tells of the work she is prepared to do in the development of the medium she creates from the bees wax and pigment waxes she hand makes. Loughery has developed a visual language through her combined multi-media work and has moved beyond being a technical painter into a place of intuition and expression.
Her encaustic paintings are an expression of bold mark making, energy and the melting of layers to reveal thoughts of the work hidden in the thoughts of the experiences of the walls and characters she met along the way. Loughery speaks of her memories in her portrait work and many familiar faces appear in the large striking pieces.
The more I think about the people I paint, the more I think about taking them away from the structured portrait and exploring the essence of their characters in an abstract layered visual language that reveals as much as it conceals.”
Loughery has found that her work turns out the best when the eyes capture the viewer.
“I love how one stroke of light can change another color when attempting to light the emotion in the subjects eyes. It goes back to perception and the tricks our mind plays on us and what we believe is real. I am always trying to paint the thought behind the eyes and to reach to the soul of each subject. I try to capture the emotion and the feeling of the light as it changes each layer of colour. This work puts more feeling with the color to put more meaning into the portrait making.”
The work of Loughery is indeed never ordinary, but more extraordinary.