We stand on the shoulders of giants

When faced with the adulation of the adoring crowd, it takes deliberate effort not to be overcome with hubris. The flush of victory can blind one to the humility required to live a graceful life.

Hubris is a glaring Achilles Heel that can do immeasurable damage. Humility is a quiet grace that can achieve the impossible.

I dream that each person coming to Washington to take their new seat at the table will make a trek to one of the monuments to those who came before, turn their back on the cheering celebrations, and pause to meditate on the sobering task before them.


Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC    7:15am   January 13, 2017

Read More

It’s always right there

There’s an old saying in photo editor circles that goes something like this:
If you want to make more interesting pictures, stand in front of more interesting stuff.

The truth is that it’s all interesting.

mccleary_170107_7022-7028_overlay_2500px
Edinburg, Virginia    9:56am   January 7, 2017

Read More

Living on the curve

There are no straight lines in nature, no permanent installations. All is organic, changing, evolving. Once set in motion, everything will curve, often in the most surprising ways.

mccleary_161030_8873_master_v2_lr_export_overlay2_2500px
Capon Bridge, West Virginia    5:47pm   October 30, 2016

Read More

Next

The corn’s in and, as always, there’s only one next thing.
Winter’s coming.

Do the next thing.


mccleary_161207_9318_pn_lr_master_2500px-5
Edinburg, Virginia    7:34am   December 6, 2016

Read More

Life is where your feet are

It was with the incredible lightness of a summer evening breeze that we transitioned from our home of 31 years to our temporary quarters where we sit for the next 6 months or so as our next home goes through a make-over. Gratitude goes out to my sister for giving us the key to the place for as long as we need it. We are humbled daily by the charmed life we must lead that continuously affords us such generosity and delight.

We’ve landed in the bullseye of what the Shenandoah Valley looks like; you can almost smell the smoke from dying campfires 150 years ago as Confederates moved across this land they called God’s Country, hear eagles call over the Shenandoah River close by, see cattle do their daily migration from shade to pond to feedlot to pasture.

In the meantime, I’ll keep making images of what I see right here, in the country. After all, that’s all I’ve ever done — make images of what I see.

McCleary_160814_2232_master_2000px
Edinburg, Virginia    8:19pm   August 14, 2016

McCleary_160814_7847_ID-2_2000px
Edinburg, Virginia    7:07pm   August 28, 2016

mccleary_160911_2627_pn_lr_ps_2100px
Edinburg, Virginia    7:36pm   September 11, 2016

Read More

We walk through vapor

We walk through vapor that permeates the atmosphere. It casts a spell in which reality is heightened; connections are clear; we’re anchored to moments as they evolve from one to the next to the next. We stand in the wind of that vapor inhaling moments like sperm whales vacuuming up krill. When the spell is broken and we look back, it seems it was nothing less than magic.

What was that?
How do I get there again?
Did you see what I saw?
After all, I wasn’t in front of something obviously awe-inspiring like national park grandeur. I was just standing on the subway.

The vapor is always there. Sometimes we’re aware of it, most of the time we’re somewhere else. As for me, I can go days and weeks oblivious to its existence. But when I’m in it, I’m mesmerized, closer to the fact of the moment than at any other time. Only during periods of clarity and full presence do I have a chance of seeing it.

Art is in the vapor.
Or, perhaps, it is vapor.

mccleary_140601_3599_master_ps_2100px
Rue Huguerie, Bordeaux, France    6:04pm   June 1, 2014

mccleary_080624_7109_master_2100px
Metropolitana, Rome, Italy    7:54pm   June 24, 2008

Read More

Remembering 15 years ago

Fifteen years have passed since the perfect blue of that September day.

I choose to remember the courage displayed that day and take from its example all the best humans can be: selfless, generous, compassionate, loving.

 It was dark, too dark to see
You held me in the light you gave
You lay your hand on me
Then walked into the darkness of your smoky grave
Up the stairs, into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love bring us love

“Into The Fire”
B. Springsteen

mccleary_150204_9146_master_2100px-2
Ten House, Liberty Street, New York City    2:02pm   February 4, 2015

wtc_flag_2100px
St. Paul’s Chapel, Church Street, New York City    10:18am   March 27, 2002

mccleary_150204_9129_2100px
North Pool, 9/11 Memorial, New York City    1:40pm   February 4, 2015

Read More

Prince

“Dearly beloved…”

Among artists particularly––people who know the ecstasy of touching the invisible and making it tangible, as well as the vertigo of not standing on the solid ground of convention and acceptability as they reach for the unseen and unheard––there’s been a flood of tributes for this transcendent genius.

This interview in Rolling Stone from Paul Westerberg underscores the awe in which Prince was held by his fellow musicians.
From the interview (definitely worth reading)…
Westerberg: “Hey, what’s up?”
Prince: “Life.”

Like Bowie, for Prince it was always forward, no hesitation.
His Purpleness colors the air today.

McCleary_160111_5765-5768_prince as Smart Object-1_2000px
42nd Street, New York City    9:20pm   January 11, 2016 : edited April 21, 2016

Read More

Clarity | Nakagami, Oh, and Vincent in NYC

Every so often, I have a clarifying experience that helps me to see more clearly my path forward as an artist.

Over the past year, I’ve been reading Van Gogh’s letters to his brother and feeling a strong affinity for his eloquent analyses of his struggle to make truthful objects. With his ideas swirling in my head, we visited art galleries on NYC’s Lower East Side in January and saw two artists whose work resonated deeply in a way that’s taken some time for me to understand. The experience of seeing their art against the background of Vincent’s ideas synthesized in me an understanding that has helped to clarify the main goal of my work: to convey full presence and perception of the moment.

Kiyoshi Nakagami, whose work was shown at Galerie Richard, and Jong Oh, whose work was shown at Marc Straus, are similar in that they both address issues of sense and perception, albeit in very different ways.

Nakagami’s work is about light––how to paint it, not in a narrative representational way, but in a deeper more primal way. He’s not using light to make his paintings more beautiful, or to better render objects within his painting, but rather his paintings are light in its most stripped-down, elemental form. His stated intention is to force the viewer to perceive light not as the thing that illuminates our world, but as an entity in itself.

Oh’s work is about space––not how to represent it, but rather how to convey the concept of space itself, how to heighten the viewer’s tactile sense of space. The materials Oh uses––thread, jeweler’s chains, fishing weights, acrylic––are not his medium. The materials only serve to outline and allude to his real medium: space. Oh sculpts space in a way so minimal and profoundly elegant that he effortlessly makes us aware of what’s always been there.

Nakagami’s and Oh’s work is about what they see, not what they’re looking at. Perception, not subject. There’s little to fight through to connect with their work. The effect of viewing their art carries beyond the moment when the work is in front of you. You become more awake, not to their subjects, but to the world around. A more acute awareness of light, of space, of the moment.

Van Gogh’s words from 130 years ago come to mind. In an 1885 letter he wrote in Nuenen as he worked on his series of potato digger drawings, he discussed the struggle to move from academic accuracy to real perception:

“But I think however correctly academic a figure may be, it will be superfluous these days…when it lacks the essential modern note, the intimate character, the real action. Perhaps you will ask, when will a figure not be superfluous, though there may be faults, great faults in it in my opinion? When the digger digs, when the peasant is a peasant and the peasant woman a peasant woman. My great longing is to make those incorrectnesses, those deviations, remodelings, changes of reality, so that they may become, yes, untruth if you like––but more true than the literal truth.”

“Correctly academic” and “literal truth”, or in other words, mindlessly perfect technique, bring forth craft, but not art.
I’ve written previously that my images are what the memory of being there looks like. The intersection of Nakagami, Oh, and Vincent pushes me to recommit to that touchstone.

Kiyoshi Nakagami, Unititled, 2015
Galerie Richard, NYC
Nakagami_Untitled_2015

Jong Oh, Surface Water 4, 2016
Marc Straus, NYC
Oh-Surface-Water-4-2016

Read More

New collection | OVERLAYS 2016 VOL. 1

OVERLAYS 2016 | VOL. 1

Artists have, for ages, struggled—agonized, really—with how to create tangible objects that mirror the intangible visions in their heads.

These images represent an evolution in how I render my vision. I’ve been seeing like this for as long as I can remember, and these overlays come ever more closely to showing what I see. Struggle and agony suspended (for now…)

Please click here to view the entire collection.

McCleary_160113_6091_border
Ludlow Street, New York City    2:47pm    January 13, 2016

Read More

Before Leonardo…

…there was no Leonardo.
Before Beatles, there were no Beatles.
Before Bowie, there was no Bowie.
Before now, it was then.

Stay open.

McCleary_150517_1572_border
New York Avenue, Washington, DC    10:02pm  May 17, 2015

Read More

Bowie in NYC

He lived the artist’s life
No calculation, no script, no grand plan
He just moved forward, took the next step
Fearless and unbounded

He reached through the bars to the other side
And brought back gifts we never imagined

McCleary_160111_5735-5737_v2_border-2
Broadway & 43rd Street, New York City    9:05pm  January 11, 2016

Read More

Not all who wander are lost

“Not all who wander are lost”

I saw this Tolkien line on someone’s shirt on the NYC subway this week. Very timely for me; I’m starting to assemble a gallery show. To put together a show that’s not just a group of individual images tied together by a theme, but rather a show – an experience, a larger thing than can be said with a bunch of single images – this is the challenge. So I’ve been doing a lot of wandering; it’s the only way to discover something new. A few ideas are starting to bubble.

More news here as plans develop…

Here’s to wandering; I highly recommend it.

McCleary_151107_4203_ID_Ps_border
Pamlico Sound, Rodanthe, NC    5:43pm  November 7, 2015

Read More

Just this moment

We’re heading out later this afternoon to attend our first silent Zen meditation retreat. Three days of quiet: no screens, no phones, no news, no music. Just time, nature, and breathing. I remember in my youth a friend mentioned they were going to do the same thing. Even the thought of it terrified me. What would I do with the time, how would I keep from going crazy? But now, I’m very much looking forward to it – three days of playing the presence game. I’ve been doing this kind of practice with my art for quite some time now – capturing the moment, that which is right in front of me. No narrative, no axe to grind, no point to make.

Just.
This.
Moment.

McCleary_140606_6964-6973_border_1500px
Avignon, France    9:24pm  June 6, 2014

Read More

Roadside poetry

It’s not conscious or deliberate; it’s not created with poetic intention. It’s just there, an artifact from the real world.

We actually turned the car around to go back and get this one:

Lamb ‘n mutton
Cut ‘n wrapped

It’s got cadence – lamb ‘n mutton – a rich sequence of round consonants and soft, humming, roof-of-the-mouth “n”s.
It’s crisp and sharp –cut ‘n wrapped – you say the “cut ‘n” like you’d say “cotton”, attack the “C” but slur the “t”.

Lamb ‘n mutton
Cut ‘n wrapped

And there it is on the side of the road for everyone to see – pure, unadorned, unassuming – like a fossil lying in the dirt that, until it was noticed, was just another rock.

McCleary_150912_2742_ v2_border
On Route 24 near Loa, Utah     September 12, 2015

Read More

The presence game

Go outside at night, after dark, but not too late, like ten o’clock, before the world’s gone to bed.
City. Country. Doesn’t matter.
And listen.
Put aside thoughts, screens, cares.
Just listen unencumbered.

First you hear nothing, then it becomes a cacophony, white noise, a blur of sound.
Keep listening. It starts to separate into layers.
Crickets, night birds, frogs, truck on a distant highway.
Cars on the street, the squeak and bounce of a pick-up game, a siren, garbage trucks on their late night rounds.
Silence of snow falling, plane flying five miles high.

Now return to your thoughts and screens – schedules, the project you’re working on, grocery list, tomorrow’s meeting, Facebook.
All those layers of sound, that entire cast of night performers, turn back into white noise – if you even notice it at all.

Interesting how that works, how easily the here and now disappear.

I play the presence game.
No narrative, no agenda, no point to make.
Just document the here and now. Wherever it is. Wherever I am.
Let the images make their own sense once they’ve been captured, where the game is the point.

The game itself is the art.

McCleary_150911_2606_ID_master_1230px_border
Bank, Green River, Utah     September 11, 2015

McCleary_150911_2618_ID_master_1230px_border
Bar, Green River, Utah     September 11, 2015

Read More

Old dog, new tricks

I’m on social media now. Thanks to Chris’ guiding hand, when I post here at LOOK, it will automatically appear on both Facebook and Twitter, plugging me into the viral world and hopefully enabling me to exchange thoughts and ideas with a growing group of fellow travelers.

Links:
Facebook page
Twitter feed
See ya there!

silver road_1230px_border
Sperryville, Virginia     April 8, 1978

Read More

Upstairs / downstairs

The New York City subway is like no other, an embodiment of the city itself. Gritty and unadorned, genuine and so real, never standing on ceremony; it’s efficient and gets right to the point. No wasted words, no wasted effort.

Times Square is also like no other, a very different embodiment of NYC. Everywhere you look is screaming for your attention, but with nothing substantive to say. It’s a playground, a canvas, a stage. A place to see and be seen with the 24/7 buzz of caffeinated energy.

There’s enough raw material there for a lifetime of image-making. It’s a magnet; I’m heading back soon…

McCleary_150202_8738-8739_border
59th Street & Lexington Avenue station, New York City     February 2, 2015

McCleary_150203_8945-3_border
47th Street & Broadway, New York City     February 3, 2015

Read More