Newport Beach

Dan McCleary

Newport Harbor Art Museum

With the knowing, incisive touch of a sensitive dramatist, Dan McCleary recalls and reconstructs the content and emotional tenor of important yet fleeting episodes common to most of us who grew up in middle America. A young painter (he is in his early 30s), he has an intuitive grasp of the tender, indescribable emotions of late adolescence and early adulthood. His paintings speak of the vulnerability involved in parental and romantic attachments, and of the lasting effects of seemingly insignificant social encounters that go unrecorded even as they leave their mark deep in the psyche.

McCleary is a dramatist, not a documentarian. Broad, flat planes define the essential features and positions of his figures, while precise details of clothing and gesture focus attention on critical points of conflict and connection. We are experiencing art, not life; McCleary’s imagery has been filtered through memory to be reconstructed in the present, and as such it looks forward and backward in time, a fact which lends a remarkable poignancy to such works as Communion Day, 1982, Christmas Eve, 1982, and Fear of the Future, 1983. McCleary is sure of his purposes and sure of his means. Over and over again the work strikes a tender balance of truth and dramatic fiction, with a lean, unadorned dignity that is so often the style and the strength of the best in American art and literature.

Susan C. Larsen