Dan McCleary Protection oil on canvas 2009
I have been reading the new book 'Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life,' by Karen Armstrong, who was a nun before she became a renowned religious historian who wrote 'A History of God,' among other books. In 'Twelve Steps' she says that "one of the chief tasks of our time must surely be to build a global community in which all peoples can live together in mutual respect," and goes on to emphasize the importance of compassion in building that community of peace.
Reading it made me think of a show my husband and I went to see two weeks ago. Dan McCleary: Every Day Sacred is at the USC Fisher Museum of Art until March 7th. What strikes me most about Dan's work is how respectful it is of its subjects, and how compassionate his gaze is towards the friends/strangers/'other' who he depicts. I worked for Dan for a time as a model and as a drawing teacher at his program for young adults called Art Division. Dan is indeed as compassionate and kind as his artwork suggests. He is one of those not "motivated by self-interest, a truly humane person. . . oriented toward others," as Karen Armstrong describes a little later in her book. His portrait paintings and drawings show "a consistently empathetic consideration of others (which) can introduce" the viewer of his artwork "to a dimension of existence that transcends our normal self-bound state."
His paintings allow us the chance to share a gaze or gaze upon another person depicted with respect as mystery, going about their life in the shared, private and sometimes anonymous spaces we all inhabit. It is what I like most about them, that sense of silence, connection, distance, intimacy, and reflection. They are very beautiful in person. Dan's colors are fresh and surprising, and his application of paint is thoughtful. If you are in LA, I would recommend making the effort to go to the Fisher Museum before the end of the week as well worth your while.
Dan McCleary Panel Discussion oil on canvas 2011 (that is twenty-one year old me in the middle of the table, wearing a gold pendent. The other models are, from left to right: Javier, Robert, me, Emmanuel, Wilbur, and Ajax)