Leigh J. McCloskey, Last of the Cave Painters by Jason Hall



Never mind the fact that he was born some 600 years too late, Leigh J. McCloskey is every bit a Renaissance Man. Not someone stuck in the past, but someone part of what he calls an “emerging Renaissance.” An accomplished actor, McCloskey may best be known for his role as Mitch Cooper from the TV series Dallas. Through Julliard, to a career in TV/film spanning nearly 4 decades, McCloskey’s acting resume would seem creative enough for two lifetimes. After spending a day with him in the Hieroglyph of the Human Soul, however, you’d soon realize that McCloskey is concerned with much more than just playing a part. Indeed, spending time IN the Hieroglyph of the Human Soul. Entering the artist’s home only to see the room devoted to this craft of mixed media, brushstroke, and imagination, it would be easy to dismiss the Heiroglyph as a floor-to-ceiling, corner-to-corner rendition of archetypes in acrylic paint. However, after a few moments dissolving into the splendor of a work like this, objectivity takes a back seat. Add 3-D glasses with well-executed storytelling, and objectivity gets thrown out altogether. I thought I had come to hold an interview, but within minutes I realized the standard Q & A would not suffice: “Unscrew the locks from the door! / Unscrew the doors themselves from the jambs!” to quote Whitman, and this rallying cry provides the necessary architecture to describe a person who may very well be the last of the cave painters.

Cosmic Christ visage on floor

Leigh considers his career in show business to be a patron, allowing him the freedom to explore painting and metaphysical architecture without being subject to commercialism. His background as an actor may be played down as a source of funding, but Leigh’s ability to connect with an audience enhanced my viewing experience more than if I were to come upon the same work in a gallery or museum. In his home, his cave painting serves as a way to entertain, to pass along tradition, to demonstrate “where the art is, and to remind us where the heart dwells.”
Looking at the complexities of the Hieroglyph shows McCloskey’s success at using religious themes in a very contemporary way. Like the philosophers of the Renaissance who are credited with moving art from the religious into the secular, so too is McCloskey interested in the next shift in the artistic milieu. The result: A daily habit that connects images of Eve from the Judeo-Christian tradition with the likeness of Taoism’s Quan Yin represented in equal measure. But it’s more than the juxtaposition of symbols and cultures. The visual acuity matched with the caliber of storytelling is what makes this thing tick. Or not tick exactly; rather, it becomes the force which stops the clock.

I did my homework researching Leigh J. McCloskey the painter, whose father (also a painter) encouraged him, “When you can no longer explain something, then paint it,” whose technique had been honed by projects like the eighteen years he spent illustrating the Major Arcana of the Tarot with painstaking detail, whose grasp of philosophy both eastern and western is as evident in the brush as it is in the narration. But no amount of research would have prepared me for my experience. At some point in the afternoon, the Hieroglyph ceased being just art and instead transformed into a crash course in humanities and particle physics, as it rendered the colorful by-products of modern mysticism. An afternoon? More like an out-of-body experience that Hubble himself would envy.

The resonance left me feeling that it would be more appropriate to paint a picture or write a poem, rather than report who, what, when, where, and how. . . but why? I wanted concrete facts since inspiration is such a tricky thing to discuss. I wanted to ask blithely about tools and supplies, about process—the safe questions about color theory or how he gained proficiency in figure drawing. Unfortunately, such questions would only get me so far.

To be inspired, to be impressed, it’s helpful to lose footing, it’s appropriate to give up some fleeting notion of control. After a while, I abandoned my pen and note pad. Deconstruction turned into participation like alchemist’s lead into gold. Four hours passed in what seemed like forty minutes, and I left sure that I had only a fraction of the details, considering that the painting was four years in progress! Part soliloquy, part alchemy, through the storyteller, against the cyclorama of color and symbol, I was transformed from a journalist into a character during this play on what Leigh deems “visual philosophy.”

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  1. November 19, 2009 @ 8:28 pm A Modern Day Da Vinci

    […] To continue reading, click here. […]

  2. November 20, 2009 @ 12:21 pm Miluka Rivera

    Leigh, is our modern times William Blake, he is not only an amazing artist and a visionary, but also a poet of the human soul. He was part of a recent panel “Meeting of the Minds” a free lecture at our studio Kumaras Center, in Burbank and he was very inspiring to all! Thanks for the great article and for making a difference!

  3. November 27, 2009 @ 5:29 pm Strangeloop

    I’ve known Leigh for years, and I agree with the above statement whole-heartedly. I have never met anyone with such all encompassing vision.

  4. November 28, 2009 @ 10:34 am Casey Biggs

    Beautifully written article. Having known Leigh for over 30 years I have never heard so insightful a description of his work. Quite an accomplishment.
    The beauty of Leigh is that there is little filter between who his is and his work. Picasso was the same. In my humble opinion Leigh transcends.

  5. June 22, 2010 @ 3:07 pm Elliot Hiller

    Congratulations on this excellent article! Leigh is a shining example of someone who has worked hard on developing his gifts, talents and abilities while remaining genuinely humble and generously warm-hearted. It is an honor to know him and call him a friend, one who inspires and helps us aspire to more.

  6. August 11, 2010 @ 12:44 pm Rachelle Benveniste

    Thr first time I entered Leigh McCloskey’s Hieroglyph of the Soul room, I found myself. I am a writer and poet and teach creative writing and what I felt was that the same stream of consciousness was moving through me, but my steam is finding it’s way in a poetic novel and with Leigh the creativity rises in art…but a simlar breaking through current images and symbols, he too is cracking them open for the new to emerge in an ecstatic, wondrous, vast and yet intimate way, The collective unconsciousness is rising in he light and Leigh is one of those leading us, mirroring what others cannot yet put into words or images. It takes so much courage, so much bravery to stand up with the Truth that is coming from the Source to further us along on the huanity’s evolving journey .

    Leigh has said YES and then with a genius so great, (no wonder he was invited by the Source to step forward) , a genius of vision, of art, and compassion and strength, I kneel in awe at his expressons knowing they are also mine.

    He has inspired me with his curage, the beauty and depth of his art and soul, encuraging me to move forward with the way the inviation has landed in me.It is not easy. A visionary like Leigh will also receive responses that can’t yet accept that which is bursting open the status quo, to a place where pain is transformed into art and peace, where we each realize the magnificence of our being. That’s what Leigh wants us to know that we might live in a Universe where we know ourselves, each other,and wars (personal and ppoliticaly) will at transform into celebrating ourselves, rather than destroy. Thank you, Leigh for allowing me entrance into yourself via your art and heart. I am moving forward with my expression and you have been one of true inspirations for that. Bless you.

  7. September 15, 2010 @ 12:15 am Jeanne Meadows Park

    What a fabulous example of going beyond the confines of our human existence. Leigh is an incredible artist with unlimited vision. Thank you Leigh for your contribution to the human condition.


  8. September 17, 2010 @ 12:09 pm Michael Timothy McAlevey

    It’s nice to read a review of Leigh’s work but words cannot actually explain the “experience.” I realize that Leigh likes to think he can explain it…and he does a very good job….but the WORK truly needs to be viewed to fully comprehend the effort.

    I’m just really concerned on how Leigh is going to get the room moved to a Museum.

    The Louvre or The Smithsonian seem like proper destinations….but alas little ole Malibu will just have to do for the time being.

    Incredible……and nice review too.

  9. January 8, 2012 @ 12:13 pm Maria Lee Carta

    It was a pleasure to have met Leigh; and to have attended a special reading and see his incredible studio. As an artist and mystic ;visionary it is nice to know there are people around that still live and work at their visions. In other words they can make something from nothing and manifest. In the words of Joni Mitchel “an artist paints a painting and he paints a painting…”

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