Joan Iaconetti

Paintings in Joan Iaconetti’s Underground series have been shown in the New York Transit Museum and the Metropolitan College of New York as well as national juried exhibits. Her award-winning paintings have been featured in Watercolor Artist Magazine, Practique des Arts, a French online artist magazine, and the book “A Watercolor A Day”.  

Originally from Racine, Wisconsin, Joan moved to New York in 1980 and began painting in watercolor in 1998. Frustrated by her early instruction, or lack thereof, she was self-taught until studying at the Art Students League in 2011. She developed and began teaching Watercolor for Absolute Beginners (“the class I wish I’d been able to take”) in 2004 at The New School’s IRP organization in New York, and began painting seriously a few years later. She continues to teach and paint in her Union Square studio in New York City. 

Artist’s Statement

There are those who love trains, happily obsessed with railroads, trolleys, and subway systems. I am not one of them; my Underground series began instead as more of an arranged marriage. After 14 years of painting, I became interested in taking watercolor “beyond pretty” and trying alternative, impressionist techniques: thick paint, sprayed water, layers of spatter and scumble. Most of the non-traditional paintings I admired depicted bridges and cityscapes. What other subject, I wondered, could be equally urban, gritty, and massive? The answer lay beneath my feet. The more I observed the subway, the more I saw its juxtapositions and ironies. Each station was predictably uniform, yet unique; its size and scale were sprawling, yet claustrophobic. Riding the post-graffiti trains is the most mundane of daily activities, yet a packed or empty car can still spike the adrenaline. Few would call the subway pretty, but its miles of grimy pipes and rail, its sheer geometric functionality, began to reveal a kind of sullen beauty. It’s doubtful that anyone has the NYC transit system in mind when he quotes the phrase “Architecture is the art you can’t avoid.” The underground is a place urban dwellers hurry to leave, yet can’t do without. Millions of riders swarm its landscape every rush hour, filling its tunnels, cars, platforms, and vertigo-inducing three-level stairwells; they become part of that underground architecture, providing a tide of evocative images. In the Underground series I simplify complex human and station architecture into ragged shapes of light and dark, illuminated by the fractured light of speeding trains. The series explores the rushed, off-balance feeling evoked by traveling in a confined subterranean space — one that is simultaneously mundane yet vaguely menacing, at once over-bright and shadowy.  

These mid-scale paintings are done in layers of thick transparent watercolor, and sometimes opaque gouache, on heavy, rough-textured, archival cotton Arches paper. 



Metropolitan College of New York, financial district; solo exhibition of “Underground” watercolors; May 16, 2017 through mid-August 2017

2016 –  2017

The New York Transit Museum, solo exhibition of “Underground” watercolors; Brooklyn Heights, NY, May 2016 through February 2017


The American Watercolor Society, 149th Annual Exhibition, April, New York; recipient of the Winsor & Newton Award for “Wet Floor”


The National Watercolor Society, juried Members Exhibition, Los Angeles

 The Salmagundi Club, New York


“Industrial Beauty” group show, The George Billis Gallery, Chelsea, New York

Solo Exhibit “Underground Series”  May 20 – June 2, The New School, NYC

Armature Arts Gallery, Bushwick, Brooklyn; group show by BuskNYC


The National Watercolor Society, 93rd Annual Exhibition, Los Angeles CA     

Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Exhibit, New York

The New School, group show, New York


The National Watercolor Society, 92nd Annual Exhibition, Los Angeles CA

The Allied Artists of America, 99th Annual Exhibition, New York City

The Salmagundi Club, New York City


The Salmagundi Club, New York City


“Toys” group show, The Atlantic Gallery, New York City


2016     Recipient of the Winsor & Newton Award for “Wet Floor,” exhibited in The American Watercolor Society, 149th Exhibition.

2012     Best in Show, Class exhibit, Salmagundi Club, New York City