Born in Litchfield, Minnesota in 1956, McLaughlin began working in sculpture while studying at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the 1970's. Later he worked in London painting and printmaking. In 1988 he completed studies at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris. His work was first shown there in the Atelier Charpentier.
McLaughlin maintains studio-residences in France and the United States. He keeps a workshop in the Loire Valley in France, a studio in Palo Alto, California and another on two acres of desert in Phoenix, Arizona. His work can be viewed in numerous galleries in Europe, Canada and the USA.