Kate McGloughlin mines family history to create bucolic gems

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Kate McGloughlin grew up and spent much of her adult life amidst the barns, farm outbuildings and silo built by her ancestors on the family homestead in Olivebridge, at a place called Davis Corners; but it was a long time before the landscape painter and printmaker began painting them. “I painted the Reservoir, woods and waterfalls, but I avoided barns, which felt like a cliché. Or maybe I just didn’t see them,” she said.

In 2005, rather than travel and paint, as was her wont, she had stayed closed to home in order to take care of her mother, who had pancreatic cancer. One snowy January day, McGloughlin was bringing her mother home from a chemotherapy treatment and noticed how the light was hitting the horse barn. “It was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen,” she recalled. “I dropped my Mom off, went home, and then stood on that corner and nailed that barn. The painting became the cover of the postcard for one of my shows in Beacon, called ‘Home.’”

Kate SQSince then, she “just can’t stop” painting and making prints of the barns, which are in varying stages of decay. Painted on the spot, the simple geometric structures are perfect foils for the play of light and shadow that inspire McGloughlin’s abstracted, painterly compositions of powerfully felt shapes.

They also express the essence of the place, evoking a lost world of an agrarian past whose final days McGloughlin glimpsed as a child, when staying at her grandparents’ farmhouse with her twin brother Michael. “My parents lived up the hill with our older sister and brother, so this was the place for us,” she said. “It was idyllic. There were no rules, though we did our chores. My grandfather set up a table for me, where I was always making pictures. He used to sharpen my pencils with his jackknife.”

The farm’s roots are pre-Revolutionary War, the family acquiring the land from King George III in 1769. When McGloughlin was a small child, the last of the cows were gotten rid of, and most of the original 180 acres was also being sold off – some of it to the Norwegians from Brooklyn who summered at the boardinghouses in the area and wanted a couple of acres when they retired. “They would help my grandfather get in the hay,” she recalled. Her grandparents grew their own vegetables and had a small trucking company, with which they collected the milk from surrounding farms and transported it to Kingston, returning with loads of coal and Binnewater ice.

In her mid-teens, McGloughlin “couldn’t wait to get out of here.” A trip to Ireland in her junior year of high school whetted her wanderlust, and upon graduation she headed out to the desert, attending the University of Arizona. Upon graduating with a degree in Fine Art in 1985, she returned to Olivebridge, living with her grandmother (her grandfather had since died) and brother and using the front porch as a studio.

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