Mary McCleary at Kirk Hopper

It was a cold and rainy night in Dallas, but like the those I spoke with at the opening, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to see Mary McCleary’s work.

It was either the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art or the Dallas Art Fair where we first encountered these intricate assemblages. It seems natural I may not remember which venue came first— the work stands apart and lures you in to explore ideas, materials and processes.

This weekend’s opening at Kirk Hopper Gallery included some new works and a few we had seen before. Some I remembered from a few years back at a UT Arlington Show. The amount of time these must take to create may necessitate shows of entirely new work are few and far between.

Two of the more recent works were my favorites.

Sometimes in darkness, the Stars Come Forward to Meet You (2017) and Thoreau’s Fire (2017).

Sometimes in Darkness, the Stars Come Forward to Meet You (2017)

Sometimes in Darkness is the most abstract of the lot. It’s not technically abstract, it just takes a moment for the what of it to come into focus. Likely it is a night view of rain on a windshield with a lit gas station in sight. I’ve seen paintings of raindrop-laden windshields, and this is a popular Instagram subject, but no one puts the pieces together quite like Mary. I can’t imagine finding the objects to create a concrete image, let alone one of this complex verging on the abstract. The title seems to suggest a point in time in both metaphorical and physical darkness. Of course, any point in time has many mental and physical components and the unconventional materials that make up the image lend itself perfectly to the subject.

Thoreau’s Fire (2017)

The second, Thoreau’s Fire may be influenced by the forest fires the world is experiencing with increasing frequency. Beautifully executed, the title adds intrigue. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to ask about the reference.

Considering fires in the context of global warming and Thoreau’s status as an environmentalist, several quotes can apply.

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth,” and “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” But most prophetically perhaps is “If I put my head deliberately into the fire, there is no appeal to fire or to the maker of fire, and I have only myself to blame.”

Completed in 2017, the work precedes the record fires of recent days.

Up until this point, much of Mary’s work has been figural as well as narrative. In some sense, it is sad to see her move away from this genre, even if it isn’t a complete shift. Aside from technique, the narrative qualities are what most attracts me to her work, however. Those qualities are still preeminent.

Emily Knew Things (2013)

The work is on view through January 12, 2019.