Last week I took a quick trip up Manhattan Avenue into Greenpoint to visit my friend artist Paul Loughney in his studio. Aside from being a good dude (he helped me move once in a very last minute type of situation), Loughney is an MFA grad of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, and has a laundry list of group and solo exhibition credits both domestic and abroad. His work is in the permanent collections of Purdue University, Indiana, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum.

Artist Paul Loughney in his Brooklyn studio

Artist Paul Loughney in his Brooklyn studio

Over the last several months, Loughney has sequestered himself in studio to create a new series entitled “The Big Impossible.” Assembled from contemporary glossy magazine clippings, the work investigates the space (or lack thereof) we Americans reserve for a boy’s rite of passage into manhood. The absence of this passage in our culture—like the Masai of Kenya, who bring together boys between the ages of 15-20 for days days of sleeping in the forest and singing, during which they drink a potent mixture of cows blood and alcohol—results in a prolonged adolescence, and much confusion about masculinity in general. This narrative is explored visually in Loughney’s work by storms of flesh, presented in hypnotic floral shapes that intermingle with beautiful negative space and a few very specific supporting objects such as ladders and pedestals. These signify insecurity and a need for validation.

“The Big Impossible is a ritual of manhood by the Meskwaki tribe of Iowa,” said Loughney “They describe it as the difficult to impossible transition to reach manhood. That idea of transition became a point of departure for this new series.”

To connect with Paul Loughney head over to his official website at

"The Condo at 4 a.m." paper collage; 2015 - on of my favorites from Loughney's recent series "THE BIG IMPOSSIBLE"

“The Condo at 4 a.m.” paper collage; 2015 – from Loughney’s recent series “The Big Impossible”

“I’ve been interested in the idea of transitional spaces, the physical and psychic spaces we inhabit and explored this idea in a previous series of collages depicting reconfigured interiors called ‘Conversations from the Void,’ he said. “However, all the figures and material items were removed in that series. With this new series I wanted to continue exploring the interior as a psychic space but also to build upon the language of abstraction and figuration to incorporate patterns and symbols while keeping things simple.”

Paul's pieces hanging in his Greenpoint, Brooklyn  studio

Paul’s pieces hanging in his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio

The plinths, ladders, stools and the other items all represent something about adolescence. These objects are also all partially obscured with what I’m calling flesh storms; patterns resembling electricity, camouflage, decaying floral (a symbol from Vanitas paintings); body parts of men and women that are intentionally ambiguous.

"CootieFruit" by Paul Loughney - 10 3/4" X 9 1/4

“CootieFruit” by Paul Loughney – 10 3/4″ X 9 1/4

“One of my approaches to making collage is locating magazine sources that have the potential for ambiguity; the heightened tension between familiar and unrecognizable forms creating a sense of mystery. I like to get my viewer to slow down and take some time.”

Folds of flesh co-mingle with negative space in "The Big Impossible"

Folds of flesh co-mingle with negative space in “The Big Impossible”

A synopsys of a past show

A synopsys of a past show

Some works in progress. The subject appears to be the bulb of a peony.

Some works in progress. The subject appears to be the bulb of a peony.