Today is the day we celebrate all of the wonderful mothers in the world. To honor this beautiful day I would like to take a look at the life and career of Montreal artist, Joan Dumouchel.
Joan Dumouchel creates acrylic and graphite paintings of clowns, acrobats and other performers, all with a notably powerful gaze. While Joan has been professionally painting for nearly thirty years, she considers her children to be her greatest creations. She has a son Simon, 45, and daughter Elise, 41, and four grandchildren. The likeness of Elise is often found in Joan’s works of art.
Montreal is not only Joan’s hometown, but is also the headquarters and birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. The cultural environment is rich and supportive for creative arts, especially physical performance arts.
As a young woman, Joan’s daughter Elise was very active in this community. Elise and her friends wore funny clown noses, did acrobatics, juggled on unicycles and walked on stilts in the city center. It was a small wonder then, that Joan’s early works centered around this theme of theatrics and backstages, often populated by clownish performers. Nowadays, Elise is paid by the Canadian government as a professional clown at a children’s hospital, bringing smiles to those who need it most.
As Elise matured, so did Joan’s work. Not necessarily drawing from a particular model or individual, Joan’s portraits began to embrace a more general visage, exploring the realm of dreamscape and the nuanced power of the feminine gaze and emotional expression. Joan started to incorporate repeating textile patterns, text elements, and the inclusion of various metal leafs. She also branched out into symbolic paintings of horses and other animals. Once a year, she paints Formula One race cars when they take over the streets of Old Montreal.
Beginning in 2018, family had an even more profound effect on Joan and her art production. Joan’s beloved husband slipped away after a long battle with ALS: Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gone from her paintings were the familiar countenances; in their place only pure formal abstraction. Representative figurative work was not available to her, only depictions of the ineffable; color, metal leaf and energy.
In more recent years, Joan has struck a balance. The graceful forms and face of the feminine subject has returned to her canvases, with occasional forays into abstraction.
Parenting often involves acting like a clown. We dance, we sing, we play. Finding creative ways to entertain our little ones is part of the job. And we are rewarded with their giggles and smiles. While we work hard to keep our children happy, we are reminded that it is fun to be a kid. It is fun to entertain. While Joan’s work remains playful, she has since integrated collage-like backgrounds. Maintaining the importance of play, and not forgetting that the past is a mix of so many things.
Our capacity to love and nurture, to have compassion for others grows immensely when you become a mom. You look at the world differently. The brave femininity portrayed in the figures of Joan’s recent paintings is captivating. Yes, these have a whimsical dreamlike quality to them. And yes they are beautiful. But I think there is something more that draws us in. Perhaps we are looking at the power of a mother’s love.
Art is why I get up in the morning. The opportunity to be a matchmaker; to serve as liaison between the collector, the artist and the art.