Jerry McLaughlin: “A Safe Space Where I Can Explore Emotions”

Artist name: Jerry McLaughlin

Featured Work 1: “Dark Day in Drezzo”


Jerry McLaughlin’s neutral and earth-toned non-objective works invite the viewer into carefully worn and crafted surfaces, replete with texture and nuance. Both richly emotive and meticulously controlled, the layers smolder, shift and settle before our eyes, suggesting an inquisitive creative process that balances a patient exploration of the media with organic expression.

Featured Works Slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5 Questions for the Artist:

1. What is art to you?

My childhood and my career in medicine honed my skills at compartmentalizing and avoiding my feelings. Making art creates a safe space where I can explore emotions, particularly darker ones, that I often have a hard time accessing. Exploring these through the physicality of making the painting, as well as through their intellectual and aesthetic rendering, is unlike anything else. There is something so amazing about taking feelings, thoughts, ideas, and moods — these complex, intangible, amorphous things that are so real to us and live so palpably inside us — and translating those onto a surface; something other people can see and experience. However, despite their very real presence as a painted image, because of their abstraction, they still remain elusive and ineffable. I love that duality.

2. What did you make in the past and why?

Although I always wanted to be a painter, I thought since I did not go to art school that wasn’t possible. I enjoyed—or perhaps was simply skilled—at taking pictures. So, I started my art career in photography. I photographed the male form and printed on alternative surfaces like wax, tar, and steel. Process and the influence materials themselves have on artwork have always been important to me. Exploring intimate subjects like the male body and male sexuality, while pushing the limits of photographic printing was exciting and offered an avenue for creativity I had been craving. However, it never felt authentic. I wanted to be a painter. So, I abandoned photography, committed myself to painting, and never turned back.

3. What are you making now and why?

I build large, minimalist, monochromatic, textured paintings. My work is informed by the urban world of concrete, asphalt, and steel and by the decay, erosion, and weathering of that environment. Although austere in its minimalism and monochromatism, it is intimate in its bold and detailed textures. I create these paintings through intensive working and building up of many layers of paint, pigment, and cold wax, along with earth, sand, and ash. Starting with layers of color, chaos, and visual noise, I indulge my tougher, darker emotions—a kind of emotional stream of consciousness. In successive layers I quiet the painting, gaining control of the surface and quieting the surface—the kind of control and quiet I explore through meditation. That kind of quiet, deep, powerful experience of meditation is what I strive for in my work. Painting and meditating are among the hardest things I have ever done.

4. What are your hopes for the future?

I want to continue to refine my work, to explore and better understand the relationship between me, my materials and my paintings. Currently most of my work is large, but I’d like to find a way to translate the power and presence of the paintings into a smaller format, something I’ve found thus far to be quite challenging. Materiality is very important to me, and I’d also like to continue exploring new materials, perhaps bring some of my urban inspirations—concrete, asphalt, and steel—literally into my work.

Like most artists, I want my work to resonate with people. I’d like to expand my reach, touch more individuals, continue to grow and deepen those conversations between artist and viewer. And my biggest hope: to be able to leave medicine fully, supporting me and my family through making and teaching art.

5. What else would you like to say?

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, trusted me and encouraged me throughout my art career. It took me a long time to be courageous enough to commit to making art. It has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I want to encourage anyone who even thinks about making art to do it…just do it, for no more reason than you want to. That’s reason enough.

Artist Supplied Background:

Jerry McLaughlin MD initially trained as a pediatric critical care physician. He began his artistic career as a fine art photographer and then transitioned to abstract painting with cold wax and oils.

In 2017, Jerry partnered with artist Rebecca Crowell, and they published Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts & Conversations, the first ever comprehensive guide exploring this exciting medium.

His work has been collected across the US and internationally and has appeared in several magazines. He is represented by the Jen Tough Gallery, ARTERRA, and the Branner Spangenberg Gallery. Passionate about teaching, Jerry holds a certificate in adult education. He is recognized as an expert in cold wax medium and has taught throughout the United States and internationally.

Jerry lives in Oakland, CA with his husband Mike and their dog Bert. Find him on Facebook and Instagram.


Robert Mars is represented by PR for Artists.
5 Questions for the Artist, © Julia Travers


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s