CATHARSIS, by Damon McCloskey, at Gallery425 in September

Opening Friday, September 1st, 2017
6pm – Close

CATHARSIS: The act of purging or purification, elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording its expression.

The exhibition will consist of ten or more large and medium sized mixed media paintings on canvas. Interlacing the paintings will be mixed media drawings on paper. Selected pictorial elements from the initial drawings will be repeated within the larger paintings creating a sense of repetition, continuity and unity. However, upon close examination it will be evident to the viewer that the images have been altered slightly or significantly in order to reinforce the constancy of change and the need for individual adaptation.

McCloskey’s work deals with subject matter such as Nature, Myth, Religion and Faith, Secret and Mystery Traditions, Globalization, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Information Overloads and Crashes, Frivolous Merriment, Mass Surveillance, Security, Culture as Acute Insecurities, Domination and Submission, Addiction, Sexuality, Identity, Nostalgia, Critical thinking, Repetition, Ethnomusicology, Improvisation, Interdisciplinary Arts, and Art as Therapy.

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When I am asked to describe my artwork I do my best to be humble, conscientious, and respectful to those who pose such a question.  The thing is, I am terribly averse to the ego stroking parties and back-handed competition so important to some artists.  I wish to remain humble and teachable because to be the opposite will only inhibit understanding and growth.  The one-up games of egocentric parties involved in discreet artistic and intellectual espionage runs counter to the goals that I have set forth as a visual artist. The fact is this is a life-long process.  An artist must be more than comfortable to sit at the table alone.  Conversely, if such a table, room, field, or stage is teeming with other individuals the artist must be able to individuate themselves and assert autonomy within the collective.

In addition, a balance must be struck with ambition and acceptance.  An artist will always strive to make each work more successful than the previous work.  The key is to accept the fact that this is not always possible and to move forward regardless of the potential defeats or unexpected setbacks.

I intend for my work to be bold, uncompromising, and unapologetic because all of the mistakes I make and all of the lessons learned from each defeat has provided growth as an artist.  I take responsibility for my actions.

The artist Marcel Duchamp once said: “I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”  What a refreshing thought to ponder in an age of human history that seems to suggest that everything has been done and all of the answers to one’s quest for happiness are to be found in the rich and learned houses of the elite.  To some, art may simply be a product for the dominant culture but to those of us who are active participants in its creation it is a lifelong learning exercise.  It is a sacred place where intuition becomes expressed and the meandering, screeching, pounding calliope of everyday life submits to the will of the conscious individual who MUST create something to document their experiences.  The art I create allows my intuition to break through the matter of my bodily systems and create expressions of this world which I temporarily inhabit.  All too often I have experienced the inundation of impressionistic waves, feelings and internal visualizations which elude the capture of expression.  However, every so often, the net that is my conscious-self grips hold of something that pulls the substance through the other side to be splashed onto a material object such as paper, canvas, metal, or keyboard.  To be sure, these expressions are still in an intermediate stage and require further refinement of intuiting.  This does not deter the artist.  In fact, the challenges are welcomed with a sincere appreciation for the opportunity to grasp hold of the wonders, joys, sorrows, and reconciliations that await those who choose to live the life of the artist.  As a result, a new body of work is again beginning to emerge.

The process for creating these current (and future) artworks at this stage of development can be described: The initial lines, masses and volumes are drawn intuitively with graphite pencil and drafting tools, mixed mediums, etc.  Materials should further concepts as opposed to constraining the composition.  A musical selection of any given genre is almost always playing.  There is no question that music informs the individual process associated with my work.

Gestural lines of varying width and value, invented alphabetic/numerical and archetypal symbols, amorphous figures, fractal figures, photographs, non-objective scribbles, collage and hard edged geometric shapes become fused together with free hand line and the chosen colors.  The process often requires a change of perspective to accomplish the assimilation of what I perceive as individual parts within the whole of the composition.  In order to facilitate these ends I will often shift the orientation of the page.  For example, if there is a difficult or problem area; flip the page over end.  The entire composition changes and meaningful connections, associations, and additions can be added.  Sometimes I find myself working in a trance like state of consciousness.  When this occurs drawing and painting sessions often carry on for a number of hours into the early morning.  Most often, the state of mind is calm and calculating searching for a line to bridge to a existing line or a vacuous space to fill for the sake of relief.  On other occasions the music is deafening and I am raucous in the studio. Complimentary and contrasting color is added in order to facilitate connections and suggest vibratory spaces of irreconcilable voids.  As the piece evolves, additional lines are painted or penciled in and detailed by hand as shapes, structures, evocative buildings, figures, objects, etc.

When the work is a mixed media drawing the eraser is not used as a tool to correct a mistake.  There are no mistakes, not really, only progress.  Rather, the eraser is used as a means to push, pull, enhance, and fade marks made to the ground.  Also, the initial composition drafting process includes a practice of striking the paper pointedly on instinct, sometimes.  For example, while the music is playing the hand hovers above the page while the eyes scan the newly drawn space and when the moment “feels right” a mark is made as quickly as possible.  After all, there is nothing wrong with acting as a renegade conductor.  The train is sure to derail.  We are on track.

Regardless of the formula or anti-formula that I choose to follow on any given occasion the fact of the matter is that each mark made is a decision.  It is a choice to create and record a specific moment in time.  Sometimes, I find it helpful to do what is possible to introduce an element of randomness to the work.  I have  used black powder and various firearms to make art.  This has proven to be an interesting experimental exercise.  When applied in disparate and thin patterns to the surface of the canvas and ignited the black powder flashes across the canvas in a split second and makes an impression without burning through the ground.  It is essentially introducing a small explosion to the art and allowing the subtle, feathery patterns to inform the next decision of the composition process.

The artist must effectively meditate on his work.  A helpful practice is to shift ones perception of the work in progress to a state of renewed novelty.  Utilization of techniques to shift perception allows myself to engage with the work from multiple perspectives and see the work as a hyperbolic expression of thoughts radiating from my consciousness.

Sometimes I like to think of the work that is being creating in terms of their relationship to music, especially jazz, classical, and rock and roll.  An interdisciplinary arts approach is attractive and usually effective.  In the case of my most recent work, there is a concerted effort to make art that stands on its own ground and digs deeply into the stories of many minds beyond my own.

Writers often talk about finding their own voice as a precursor to becoming an accomplished writer.  Similarly, it is also necessary to cultivate your own “voice” when making visual art of a sacred nature.  The artist must BELIEVE that the work is their own and that it matters.  The audience or viewer is secondary.  Pandering to an audience will only result in disappointment and unsatisfactory working conditions in the studio.  Laboring intensely over a work that is not your own can be the most dishonest and unfulfilling experience for artists.  However, creating from the ground up a work that one truly believes in can be a joyous and celebratory experience.  Especially when it is finished!  If the artist is not satisfied with the work that they are creating applauds of viewers and critics alike will only serve to deepen the frustration of the artist.  Some may disagree.  If so, that is their right to do so.

Musings about the 2017 work:

My primary focus is the interpretation of cultural consciousness, the individualistic lens which allows us as individuals to navigate the world and collide with other conscious entities.  I attempt to make sense of the time (temporal) and place (spatial) that I exist in by fusing together elements of expressionism, symbolism, surrealism, non-objectivity, impressionism, automatic drawing, freely associated lines of inquiry and hard edge geometrics among others.  Sources of inspiration for my artwork include but are not limited to anthropology, peace activism, art history, ethnomusicology, literature, waking consciousness, dream states, psychedelic visions, war, propaganda, male and female relationships, philosophy, capitalism, anarchism, mortality, obsessions, addictions, counter-culture figures, freedom, and blatant contradiction.  By making art that calls into question the status quo and by pushing myself beyond my limits I am doing my part to shift the paradigm and spread a message of strong spirit, peaceful living, love, and solidarity.  All of my artwork showcases the connection between the conscious world of the waking and the sub-conscious world of dreaming.  Emphasis is placed on personal meaning and interpretation.  The exercise of consciousness expansion is also a primary element involved with the creation of this body of work.  Personal pleasure and turmoil have respective places as well.  All of these pictures are imbued with the people, places and experiences from my travels through both the world of my waking reality and the world of my dreams.  Most importantly, the new body of work in progress is another attempt to break through, to transcend, and to create something beautiful.  The work is never finished.  It lives fast and keeps going.

“Bless love and hope. Full many a withered year whirled past us, eddying to its chill doomsday; and clasped together where the blown leaves lay, we long have knelt and wept full many a tear. Yet lo! one hour at last, the Spring’s compeer, flutes softly to us from some green byeway: those years, those tears are dead, but only they: –Bless love and hope, true soul; for we are here. Cling heart to heart; nor of this hour demand whether in very truth, when we are dead,  our hearts shall wake to know Love’s golden head sole sunshine of the imperishable land; or but discern, through night’s unfeatured scope, scorn-fired at length the illusive eyes of Hope.”

-Dante Gabriel Rosetti

“Live fast and keep going.”


“The history of art shows nothing more clearly than that the critics whose standards are based on the authority of the “classics” have in their own age rejected most violently those contemporary works upon which subsequent ages have unfailingly conferred classic status.”

-Dr. Albert C. Barnes

View Damon’s resume HERE.

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