Mark Loughney earns first professional art exhibition during his incarceration
A Dunmore artist is poised for his first professional exhibition, which will be curated by an internationally acclaimed Australian pop artist and feature 40 ink drawings, but the works in this series were created in a rather unlikely studio, the prison block of SCI Dallas.
Mark Loughney’s “Letters from Desolation Row” opens from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Converge Gallery in Williamsport, and the exhibition runs through Nov. 26. All works displayed are surreal depictions of animals and insects melded with abstract shapes in dreamlike landscapes.
A news release from curator, Johnny Romeo said the works are “deeply intimate drawings from Loughney that stand as a testament to the redemptive and healing power of art.”
“I hope that when others view my drawings, they’ll see at least some small reflection of themselves and be reminded that no matter how bad things get, no matter your station in life, it is so important to laugh, to show love, to wonder and hope,” Loughney said.
Loughney is currently serving 10 to 30 years for starting a fire in Dunmore that injured several people.
“It was a terrible, dangerous, irrational, spur-of-the-moment reaction under duress,” Loughney said. “If I could undo my actions that day I would wholeheartedly do so. The experience has been easily the most profound lesson in humiliation, humility, gratitude and self-awareness that has happened in my life. It has given me a sense of gratitude in that things could have gone tragically worse for all involved in what I did.”
Loughney said the most profound part of his journey has been discovering the source of his emotions and learning to make better decisions through mindfulness.
“With a constantly noisy and chaotic environment comes an accumulating pressure that I’ve been able to release in the drawings,” Loughney said. “When I draw, I’m partially in a meditative state.”
During one of the darkest times of Loughney’s sentence, he heard Romeo on Williamport’s WVIA radio discussing how even his parent’s had lost faith in his ability to make a career in art before he pushed forward and found success. Loughney reached out to tell Romeo how much he appreciated the sentiment.
“What moved me about Mark was he hadn’t seen my work,” Romeo said. “He had only heard me speak. It was the power of conversation that excited me, because he understood my language.”
Romeo offered Loughney an opportunity to show his art and Loughney got to work on the surreal images that will be on display at Converge.
Many feature giant insects, fish, birds, but one recurring element is a pupa-like version of a striped bot-fly, an insect known in real life for it’s parasitic and infectious tendencies.
Loughney said the bot-fly represents, “the black and white stripes that are commonly indicative of a prisoner, the transitional life phase, the vulnerability, the imminent ‘thing’ that was growing inside of me.”
Romeo hand selected works for the exhibition from the drawings he encouraged Loughney to develop.
“I said, ‘This has got a voice. This is really you as a person, using your imagination and letting it go free, the only kind of freedom you really do have,’” Romeo said of Loughney’s work.
The Converge exhibition is Loughney’s second in recent months. He also showed paintings based on the work of music photographer Jay Blakesberg at the Wonderstone Gallery in Dunmore, a showing that came to be when Loughney befriended yoga studio owner Beth Ann Zero and encouraged her to show art in her studio.
“Mark has never stepped foot in Wonderstone, but he’s managed to plant a large footprint through his encouragement and always positive and unique perspective,” Zero said.
For Loughney, the submersion into artwork is critical to his existence.
“I feel this is my way, somehow, to make things better with the people I’ve hurt,” he said. “Even if it’s never going to redeem me to them, I still pour all of my energy into it as if it will and with the intention of righting a wrong. It has become my motivating factor for me to wake up every morning.”
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Letters From Desolation Row’ by Mark Loughney
When: Nov. 4 through 26
Where: Converge Gallery, 140 West 4th St., Williamsport
Additional information: Call 570-435-7080 for further details.