Converge Gallery is excited to present the work of Mark Loughney in his upcoming exhibition, “LETTERS FROM DESOLATION ROW,” curated by Australian Pop-Artist, Johnny Romeo. Life often has a way of bringing people together in unexpected ways. For internationally acclaimed Australian Pop painter Johnny Romeo, what began as a simple interview on a local Pennsylvania classical music station in September 2015 led to him arranging a show for inmate and budding artist, Mark Loughney. Curated by Johnny Romeo, LETTERS FROM DESOLATION ROW is a collection of deeply intimate drawings from Loughney that stands as a testament to the redemptive and healing power of art. The exhibition opening will be held on Friday, November 4th from 6-9pm. The exhibition runs from November 4th – November 26th, 2016.
Johnny Romeo’s interview with presenter Fiona Powell on Williamsport’s WVIAradio show Art Scene was nothing out of the ordinary. Romeo spoke openly about the influence of Picasso, and the challenges he faced as a developing artist early on his career. Little did he know the impact that his story would have on prison inmate Mark Loughney, helping to re-ignite a deep passion for art that had all but extinguished after going through one of the darkest periods in his sentence. One moment in particular resonated with Loughney, as he notes:
‘[Johnny recalled] one particular show that he had worked so hard for, but nobody had showed up except his parents. His father said to him ‘Johnny, we love you, but we can’t keep coming to these things. Still he kept at it. Then one piece sold. Then a show sold. Then his phone started ringing. It literally wrenched me out of bed… Since that day last September, I haven’t gone a day without the focus of a man possessed by art. I draw and paint for hours on end, knowing it’s my path.’
Inspired by Johnny Romeo’s story, Loughney reached out and wrote a letter to the artist. Romeo has kept in contact with Loughney and maintained an interest in his art, touched that his own experience has made such a profound change in Loughney’s life. Moved by the dedication Loughney displayed in improving himself and his art-making, Romeo has arranged and curated a selection of his works to be exhibited at Converge Gallery in Williamsport, PA. Holding the exhibition at Converge sees Romeo and Loughney’s relationship come full circle, as it was here that the two first made contact while Romeo was promoting his book launch and exhibition, TV Land.
In LETTERS FROM DESOLATION ROW, Johnny Romeo has hand-selected a series of 40 symbolic and deeply personal black and white ink drawings by Mark Loughney. Loughney describes these works as a stream-of-consciousness fusion of ‘non-objective conceptual elements… with recognizable objects.’ Biomorphic shapes and abstractions meld seamlessly with giant insects and the simulacra of strange little animals in Loughney’s drawings, creating an engrossing and surreal visual landscape of the artist’s subconscious. The recurring motif of striped pupa-looking creatures that Loughney refers to as ‘Botflies’, has a particular emotional resonance, capturing both his vulnerability as a prisoner, and levity towards embracing life.
Despite its bleak title, there is a hopefulness that underlies LETTERS FROM DESOLATION ROW. For Johnny Romeo, Mark Loughney’s story symbolises art’s ability to help people forge new beginnings, and find hope within creativity.
The opening reception for “LETTERS FROM DESOLATION ROW.” will be held on Friday, November 4th from 6-9pm. The exhibition runs from November 4th – November 26th, 2016.
We hope to see you for the opening!