Malibu Seen

STROKE OF GENIUS

For more than a decade, the McLean Gallery in Malibu Country Mart has been a great gathering place for artists and art lovers alike. Over the years, owner Denise McLean has discovered and showcased a ton of local talent. She’s given us the likes of Kathleen Keefer with her whimsical beach scenes, Cheryl Kline with her ominous clouds and brilliant skyscapes, Georgia Nagle’s kissable cows, David Skinner’s meditative places and his equally quiet spaces.

“We are a family of artists,” Denny explained while greeting the caterer in the gallery’s back room. “Cheryl, David, Kathleen, you can’t single out just one. They are all our favorites. We have had some great times.”

Unfortunately, times are about to change. After 10 years, skyrocketing rents will force Denny to close her doors and surrender her beloved space in the Malibu Country Mart courtyard. With locksmiths looming, Denny’s last artist’s reception was a bittersweet affair.

For months, she did not know whether her business had a future, but just like a faint ray of light on a Cheryl Kline horizon, this cloud had a silver lining. Although she will be shutting down and moving operations to her home until 2008, Denny plans to reopen her gallery in the old lumber yard location along with longtime Malibu mom and pop institutions like Bernie Safire Hairstyle and Tops Gallery.

The McLean Gallery will be missed in the months ahead, but the good news gave everyone reason to cheer. “It’s sad that we have to close,” Denny said, “But we are all happy knowing we will reopen, refresh and regroup.”

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The McLean Gallery went out in style with a showing by C.W. Slade, an amazing artist who has become a personal fave. As servers made the rounds with plastic cups of chardonnay and cute cucumber sandwiches, art lovers admired Slade’s latest collection. The artist gets her inspiration everywhere from personal travels to book passages. And she puts it all together in mixed-media compositions that are rich in texture and kaleidoscopic in color.

On this occasion, Slade helped me get a new appreciation of her labor-intensive creative process. “It’s very complex,” she told Malibu Seen in front of a piece loosely based on Pompeii. “I collage, then plaster, then sand back, then I might write something, add paper or use the imprint of a screen. I love the materials.” Like Pompeii itself, the result of all this digging and dabbling is dazzling, multi-layered and absolutely astounding.

Other offerings are equally hypnotic. “We Wei” is a rhapsody in blues, from turquoise to azure to navy. There is a speck of iridescent green, a splash of lilac, a hint of peach. Faint letters in the bottom corner of one composition vaguely seem to say “Paris.” Others contain cryptic messages and creative clues and all are open to interpretation. Amid the colors, you may find a scrap of sheet music or a piece of an old world map, a da Vinci diagram or an obscure line of poetry; all of it very secretive and magical. I suppose the thing that really captures the imagination about Slade is that these intriguing works are so otherworldly and random and so much like a dream.

And so it had been at the McLean Galley for 10 wonderful years. There is always something to learn, to explore, to inspire and to experience. It’s an excuse to get a little art education, catch up with old friends, celebrate beauty and feel a part of the community. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s really about anyway? So good-bye Denny. We hate to see you gone, but we’ll be back and it won’t be long.

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