Mary McCleary’s images are made up of many parts. Often mistaken for paintings, her collages capture the details of shapes and forms. The artist’s hand infuses a life-like quality into the plastic, ceramic, and natural materials, each bit and piece.
It is common knowledge that artist have painted biblical figures in garb and settings contemporary to their own time over the years, most notably in the renaissance. Something about McCleary’s work from the 1980s and 1990’s, depicting people from stories you may have heard from the pulpit several times, is disconcerting. The plain clothes, Southwestern look of Isaac and Abraham, Potiphar’s wife wearing pearls and a shoulder-padded dress at her vanity adorned with the statue of a foreign god, makes the viewer pause. Looking at these collages one imagines the biblical story, this time retelling it in the mind by re-dressing and setting everyone close to modern times. The effect is striking when picturing you or someone you know as that prodigal son at a family picnic, that good Samaritan who was driving by, or David lured by the power of his own desire.
Gabriel Detained by the Prince of Persia
Fantastic qualities find their way into McCleary’s images at times, other instances are the depictions of the supernatural described in biblical texts. One of the more fantastic images is “Nebachadnezzar’s Insanity.” The figure representing the king afflicted with madness is many times larger than his surroundings. He dwarfs the countryside into which it is written the king roamed. Nude with long claws for nails, he is distorted. His descent into madness was the result of him esteeming himself above God. In McCleary’s painting, his over-sized figure attests to his own warped view.
Present throughout these images are many, many eyes. They are placed like the connecting points of a grid in each piece, perhaps representing the all-seeing, omnipresence of God.
9.81 Meters Per Second Per Second
The more recent work in McCleary’s portfolio is does not have blatant biblical references. Instead, each image is a world of its. The artist captures the serenity of floral arrangements, the delicate details of butterflies, and creates surreal settings with toys and bits and pieces of objects. McCleary’s worlds, sometimes no larger than 10”x10,” invite the both the eye and the mind into a contemplative space.
Learn more about Mary McCleary here