ORINDA -- When Cynthia McLoughlin visited Sherman's Amusement Park in Caroga Lake, N.Y., with her family, one ride stood out amid all the park's attractions -- the Ferris wheel.

"My favorite ride was the Ferris wheel, which gently soared to amazing heights and overlooked the beautiful lake and the bustle of activity below," said the Orinda resident. "I was always drawn to the Ferris wheel. I had an idyllic childhood. It brought back happy memories."

Growing up in upstate New York, the extended family lived just 20 miles away.

"Our family made a point to get together," she said. "Summertime was a special time to go amusement parks."

Orinda resident Cynthia McLoughlin’s photographs of Ferris wheels are part of a show at the Town Hall Theatre Gallery through Feb. 20.
Orinda resident Cynthia McLoughlin's photographs of Ferris wheels are part of a show at the Town Hall Theatre Gallery through Feb. 20. ( Courtesy of Cynthia McLoughlin )

Later, McLoughlin would take her own children to theme parks, but after they had grown up, she devoted more time to traveling and would encounter Ferris wheels in many cities.

"I often cannot deny myself the ride," she said.

Her photos of the London Eye on the south bank of the River Thames, and the Ferris wheel in the Tuileries Garden in Paris -- symbols that conjure up nostalgia -- are on display at the Town Hall Theatre gallery through Feb. 20.

McLoughlin lived in Moraga from 1995-2005 before moving back to the East Coast, though she has returned to the Bay Area, living in Orinda for a year.

"Being in this show has been a good way for me to break into my new hometown," she said.


Exhibiting at the historic Town Hall Theatre is like connecting to the past, she said.

"It's a way of bringing that nostalgic feeling into the community," McLoughlin said.

The "Through the Lens of an Artist," show at the theater features six local photographers whose works include black-and-white and color photos inspired by nature, travel and nostalgia.

"Photography has often been the vehicle I use to capture a moment, composition or color combination as inspiration for my paintings," said McLoughlin, who took up photography in her teens.

Sometimes, the composition, quality of light and precise detail makes a stronger presentation as a photograph than a painting, so she now exhibits in both media. In addition to depicting nature in her paintings, McLoughlin has embraced street art as a result of living in New York City.

"Street art has also influenced my landscape painting as well as my social conscience," she said. "I always try to relate to my viewers. Everybody wants their voice to be heard."

She's also working in a more spiritual, abstract direction on a group of paintings that represent a voice for the victims of gun violence.

In the future, McLoughlin hopes to continue to exhibit her photography and paintings that give voice to the concerns she's passionate about.

"We cannot see what others see, unless they can commit that vision to art," said McLoughlin's friend Rosemary Baffi. "Cynthia captures for me things that I would miss. A way of seeing something that I don't arrive at naturally.

"It's hard to ignore her images. They reach out and call for your attention," said Baffi. "They are not obvious and you have to spend a minute sorting it out against the vision you had. You may prefer some to others, but it will be because you have spent time with them, seeing how she sees it, and deciding if that adds to your vision. "

WHAT: "Through the Lens of an Artist"
WHEN: Through Feb. 20
WHERE: Town Hall Theatre Gallery, 3535 School St., Lafayette