To make a successful work of art, the artist must satisfy all the needs of the piece. At the same time the piece can only satisfy a few individual needs of the artist. When an artist is working with very intimate ideas and imagery, this unequal equation will always work personally against the artist. The work can never satisfy all the artists needs, yet the artist must make the piece function so that it can exist by itself on a universal level.
Artists from Frida Kahlo to Linda Montano have attempted to use their artwork as a kind of therapy to try to understand the unsettling contradictions, painful facts, and mysteries about their lives. In doing so they set aside the immediate anguish that this type of activity produces in hopes for a more complete answer down the road, or at least the satisfying feeling that they have confronted their fears and demons.
Over the past several years Sheila McLaughlin has taken this highly personal and volatile approach in her photographs. She draws on autobiographical information and uses images of her mother, son and husband in many of her pieces. But you never get the feeling that you are reading someonelse's diary. McLaughlin is able to point to a more universal understanding of child/parent relationships, marriage and tragedy through her technique of stratifying projected images into her carefully set up scenes. This method gives the viewer the impression of seeing an animated and emotionally charged conversation on the street from a block away. You are able to witness the emotional intensity but are free to use your own imagination to fill in the words.
McLauglin's ability to use highly personal and often painful ideas in her work to produce images that contain ecumenical meaning is a tribute to her understanding of the medium, and her insight into how ideas are lost or enhanced depending on how the are presented.
Sheila McLaughlin currently lives in San Francisco, Ca.
Gina Murtagh (c)1988