As Mark McMahon walks through the rooms of his Lake Forest home, he pauses to describe the various drawings, paintings, and sculptures on display—all of which are the artistic creations of his family. In the house’s basement studio, nearly finished art projects are scattered about, waiting for a few final touches. “It’s sort of a living art experiment around here,” Mark says with a laugh.
The Lake Forest house where Mark and his wife, Carolyn, raised their children—Meryl, Drew, and Elise—is, in essence, its own “gallery” of the McMahon family’s masterful artwork. From intricate, handmade glass bowls to large, colorful flower paintings, the McMahon family’s art echoes a creative heritage that continues from generation to generation.
Mark’s father, Franklin McMahon, sparked the McMahon artistic tradition many years ago. As a world-renowned artist, Franklin created prominent drawings and paintings, including drawings for NASA and courtroom sketches of the Chicago Conspiracy Trial of 1969. Following in his father’s footsteps, Mark has created an artistic legacy of his own—working for NASA and Sports Illustrated, and completing a host of eminent drawings, paintings, and murals. Some of his most well-known murals are in the Lake Forest McDonald’s and Lake Forest High School’s library, as well as a giant 8′ x 125′ mural on the corner of Federal and Van Buren in Chicago’s South Loop.
Yet, Mark is not alone in his passion and talent. Carolyn possesses a knack for all things artistic; her creations include continuous line drawings, clay sculptures, and glass bowls. With the artsy inclination running in their blood, it was only natural that Mark and Carolyn’s three children explore their own talents in the visual arts. “We were always doing art, every day,” Meryl says. “That was how we grew up: making fun projects.”
Now, as adults, the McMahon children have established artistic reputations of their own, and creating art alongside their parents has become a family affair. Meryl, who lives in Lake Forest, is a talented painter who finds time to create artwork while working as a stay-at-home mom; she also collaborates with Carolyn on glass projects. Aside from his job at CDW in Chicago, Drew welds steel frames that serve as pieces of artwork around the paintings and drawings his family members create. Elise, who lives and works in New York, has a talent for furniture making, woodworking, and upholstery.
Though each McMahon family member has his or her own specialty when it comes to art, they are all passionate about helping one another in their endeavors. “We support each other, and we help each other load things up,” Carolyn says with a smile. They also sometimes join forces to create beautiful new projects, such as glass bowls and tables. Collectively, they have created a wealth of work that demonstrates the artistic ingenuity of their family.
Yet, the most impressive aspect of the McMahons’ art is the way it brings them closer together. Whether they are traveling to France or Mexico for inspiration or simply staying home in Lake Forest, they enjoy spending quality time with one another. As they look to the future, it’s apparent that their artistic heritage will also continue; Meryl’s young son, Ronan, already enjoys making marbles and clay objects with his grandfather. For the many admirers of the McMahons’ work, it’s good to know that the living art experiment will be ongoing.
To view or purchase McMahon art, visit mcmahonartgallery.com. For more information, contact Mark McMahon at 847-295-2604 or [email protected]