The rich detail of the painting shows an excruciating commitment, while the immersion in the whole was mind-boggling to a point of concern: Would I be able to drive home, pay attention to the road, co-ordinate accelerator and clutch? However, these worries soon disappeared. Time was reduced to a wristwatch and nothing more. One may question my mental health or suspect some artificially-enhanced Kool-Aid, yet the method was neither drugs nor mere schizophrenia. The feeling was a certain genius Leigh was too humble to claim, citing that the effect, the imagery, and the connectivity come, in transcendental fashion, through him to form the personal, to extol the political, and to exalt the universal.
Some children are scolded for painting on the walls, but with the same child-like curiosity any artist must embrace, McCloskey has turned coloring outside the lines into a passion. When I write that he has painted a room inside his house, I mean he has painted a room in his house—everything in this room: The floors, the spines of books on the shelves, the couch, the couch cushions, the upholstery on the bottom side of the couch. The windows? Yes. Leigh calls it a “thought experiment” that begins with considering his home a “sacred dwelling.” And why not? The original cave painters used their grottoes to develop stories and illustrations that were as much a part of their survival as fire or their next meal.
To call the work vivid is to oversimplify, to call it unique is an understatement. Leigh’s accomplishment is sophisticated and relevant to this period in art. It is decidedly Postmodern due to its appeal to arrangement. It’s much like a living library to preserve all perspectives past and present. He has made a very conscious choice to weave the stories of human civilization somewhere between the notions of Romantic beauty and Transcendental awe. Not necessarily new or groundbreaking, the work is elegant as it engages beauty, and certainly better than museum-quality since the artist encourages a “hands-on” approach—a true art experience. In self-referential fashion, this cannot be avoided. Therefore, the painting is completed on the linoleum at the same time the participant’s feet arrive. Like episodes on the metaphysical, Leigh’s artwork is not a mural or an installation per se, but rather a multi-dimensional experience wherein every vantage offers some new insight, giving the viewer-turned-character a special role in this observer-dependent reality. The quantum physics of art.
Flowing from the palette on 9/11, you could argue that the Hieroglyph is political, a reaction against some evil in the world, or a reaction against some evil that would then use the event for political gain. But this is not entirely the case. Where some saw crisis, McCloskey saw opportunity. While others stocked weapons of defense or deception, Leigh instead took stock of what he wanted to offer the world. He picked up his brush on that day not to make a comment on society, to take sides for or against, but rather to take responsibility, to contribute as he saw fit. The virtue of his work seems to suggest that he could have reacted against fear-mongering with anger; but instead he chose to create, aspiring to beauty. It seems Leigh asked himself what was important during a time of collective fear and set out, like Noah, to build an ark where he could lead stories from all cultures and archetypes to roam on board as humanity weathers uncertain storms. At once a cave painting and an ark. And perhaps now a message in a bottle. The message is not a cry for help, but the coordinates of our mythic DNA. A message which seems to offer re-assurance: In spite of the division and fear mongering in this era—we’re OK, just patiently awaiting and creating the next paradigm.
As the cosmos expands, so too should consciousness. The consciousness that McCloskey chooses is beauty. And he affirms this boldly. A welcome change in an age where it seems easier to don a pair of lead boots and tromp through the gray misery of a life less imagined.
The Hieroglyph contains multitudes. It is McCloskey’s exploration of identity, where he learns about the self in all of its larger contexts. In Leigh’s words: “There was never any intention or ambition to create such a work. Its pattern of emergence reveals a very ancient, living, intelligent, membranous weave of knowledge. Its reality arises like a tide of beauty and implication, bringing effortlessly a profound awakening of multi-dimensional mind, transformed through art, into a fixed and personal environment. It re-unites the sacred and creative within the home and family and, like homes everywhere, reveals itself in intimacy and love. Its purpose is to inspire mythic remembering of our deeper and most extraordinary origins. It reminds us through its existence that we emerge from Depth, not Time. We are universes arising from universes, composed of universes. Our weave is whole and holy.”
A rewarding experience? Without a doubt—and that’s the easy part. Hieroglyph of the Human Soul is certainly a difficult art experience to analyze; descriptions are fleeting, and language, with its best intention, seems only to give rise to criticism or conjecture. For me, one lesson remains: That the experience of the art is enough.
As a storyteller and painter, Leigh McCloskey strives to do what we all must: To create, to question, to express in the presence of fear with an indomitable spirit. For Leigh, that’s enough. It is illumination in a cave, an even keel in rough water. It is a message in a bottle announcing to future generations that art—to live inspired—is worth the effort.
Leigh McCloskey | Malibu, CA
“If we are to explore the nature of creation we must use the tools of creation. It is time to move beyond art into imaginative adventure and the beauty of self-evident truth and creative wonder. This has been the journey of my art to finally become a profound reinvigoration of the mythic & archetypal realms from which all great art and ideas emerge.”
Leigh J McCloskey is an artist, author, actor and visual philosopher. He is native Californian and a second-generation artist. His success as a professional actor has afforded him the opportunity to explore the nature of the psyche through art, myth and creative adventure. He is the founder of Olandar Press and Olandar Foundation for Emerging Renaissance (OFFER). Leigh has lectured at Pacifica, been guest faculty with New York Open Center and given numerous presentations, classes and workshops.