THOM BENNETT PHOTOGRAPH
Joan Griswold always knew she wanted to be in the arts. As a child, she learned from her mother a love of making things, from clothing to woodblock prints. She took drama classes in high school and pursued theater in college. It also was during college that she found her true passion — painting. Today, she is best known for creating what she describes as “architectural interiors and facades with a play of light.”
Griswold grew up in Oberlin, Ohio and Rochester, New York. At 16, her family moved to Japan where she graduated from an international high school, then took a year off to study pottery and immerse herself in Japanese culture, while living with a Japanese family. She returned to the United States to attend college and studied classics and acting at Beloit College. After becoming disillusioned with theater, she took a drawing course and has been painting in oils ever since.
Influenced by the spare geometry of Japanese architecture and by the loose brush strokes and chiaroscuro of John Singer Sargent’s paintings, Griswold’s early pieces depicted street scenes with day or night-lit facades of buildings.
“They were frontal geometric patterns, a play of light, two colors next to one another that represent light and shadow,” she says. “The geometry was the gateway to the idea of searching for light.”
Over the years, her subject matter has expanded to include still lifes, portraits, landscapes and interiors. The latter is marked by the kind of classic comfort that typifies English country houses (Griswold lived in England for a stint), by a keen ability to paint the soul of a place and by what the Japanese call “shibui,” which translates to quiet gentleness or understated elegance.
“Even though it’s not my foremost intention, I try to capture a mood,” she says. “A lot of people say ‘your paintings are as if someone just stepped out.’ It’s a portrait of someone without the body.”
Griswold and her husband, writer Roy Blount Jr., split their time between New Orleans and the Berkshires. She also offers painting workshops in both places. In 2016, her pieces were featured during the inaugural Southern Style Now design week at Catfish and Henry, author Julia Reed’s pop-up shop on Magazine Street in the former Dunn and Sonnier space. Griswold’s work is also frequently exhibited at Cole Pratt Gallery, which serves as local representation for the artist.
View more of Griswold's work at joangriswold.com.