‘Mining the Soul’: Leigh McCloskey’s art graces Malibu City Gallery

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Malibu native’s artworks explore the artist’s journey into creative consciousness

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

“One can look at life as a miracle or not,” Malibu native Leigh McCloskey says. “I choose to think of it as miraculous because it’s very important to have a sense of allowing a greater wonder to be part of the story.” 

As one enters the Malibu Art Gallery to view “Mining the Soul,” he is immersed in and fascinated by McCloskey’s visionary art works, works that discuss and probe into the human and spiritual narrative through ethereal, often geometric, Mandalan and hieroglyphic images.

With titles such as “Palimpsest Gnosis,” and “Alchemy of Worlds,” McCloskey’s art leaves some viewers to wonder, “What is the artist saying?” while others discern that his works reveal the artist’s prescient presence within the illumination afforded by conscious mindfulness. 

Often, when an Irish writer pens about an Irish creative, she reviews the creative’s family coat of arms. It’s one of our cultural ways to try to ascertain the measure of the man. The McCloskey clan’s coat of arms denotes a heritage and legacy of being industrious, peaceful, and sincere, adjectives that aptly describe McCloskey’s artistic approach to creating works celebrating the universe as an organism and sharing and reflecting upon mankind’s ongoing and evolutionary spiritual metamorphoses as we collectively strain and struggle throughout our journey toward becoming human enough to understand, instead of to defy, reality. 

As attendees gathered on March 24 at the City of Malibu Art Gallery, Malibu Arts Commissioner Julia Holland and McCloskey explored his artistic process in hopes of providing insights into what his art depicts and examines. McCloskey is, through his art, sharing human and spiritual narratives and, in doing so, he arduously seeks to comprehend and illuminate the fundamental characteristics, practical implications, and theoretical frameworks within universal existence.

McCloskey is, in a phrase, a spiritual seanchai whose world of spheres, angles, allusions, and Mandals seem to begin, end, define, redefine, and discover the tensions between and harmony within what our eyes perceive and our minds know and the intersections between matter, humanity, family, and universal understanding. A viewer of his works need not be overly intellectual, but must be open to seek more insights into knowing.

“Leigh’s works exemplify an internal process that many of us have a hard time defining,” Arts Commissioner Fireball Tim Lawrence observed.

“I am humbled and honored to have my works exhibited at City Hall in our town where my father, an artist, helped to found the Malibu Art Association,” McCloskey said. “It means the world to me.”

McCloskey spoke about his father’s admonishment, “When you can’t talk about something, paint it, and how, in his perspective, ‘Art is the language of creating and is literally a way of communicating as it embraces us to explore our inner sensibilities.’”

As he does when he graciously gives a tour of his home studio, Olander, a dynamic, three-dimensional, interwoven world of mythical, spiritual, and esoteric explorations of transcendental transformations, McCloskey explained that “everything I’ve done is based on a certain set of questions and when I am creating, it is more musical than visual — things come up through my head and become optical which leads to the consciousness that doesn’t assume a shape — I never know what will appear on the canvas.”  

McCloskey does, he says, “feel like a happy gardener because I am not getting in the way of what is being manifested.”

When reacting to the world, McCloskey suggests, “we should realize that we often have what can be characterized as an autoimmune reaction to the human condition — in my art, I don’t seek to escape, but rather to turn inward, respecting  the fact that everyone needs a place in their home to honor the yes, not the yikes of life.” 

In celebrating McCloskey’s brilliance and thought-provoking works, Jae Flora-Katz summed up how insightful and groundbreaking they are, “It’s like having Rembrandt living in our midst who has yet to be fully discovered.”

Exactly.  

McCloskey’s chiaroscuro creations illuminate the light within the universe and all living things and matter, all the while probing as he seeks to differentiate planes within our universe and dimensions within our spirits, exploring nuances and mysteries.

McCloskey’s prolific oeuvre of phenomenally intriguing art works are on show at the City of Malibu Art Gallery through May 3.