Featured Artist: Mary McCleary

Mary writes of her own work:

I made my first 3-D collage 26 years ago. Since that time my work has grown in size, complexity and meaning. The collages are made by attaching layer upon layer of materials such as paint, paper, rag board, foil, glitter, sticks, wire, mirrors, pencils, nails, glass, painted toothpicks, string, leather, lint, small plastic toys and other objects on heavy paper, much in the way a painter builds layer upon layer of paint on canvas. Often these materials are used symbolically. My aim is that the obsessive images that result from this method of working convey an intensity which the viewer finds compelling. I am interested in the spatial complexity and visual tensions that come from the collages being illusionistic, while at the same time composed of three-dimensional objects that often retain their own identity. Drawing my subject matter from history and literature, I like the irony of using materials that are often trivial, foolish, and temporal to express ideas of what is significant, timeless, and transcendent.

The irony that Mary refers to at the end of this wonderful statement is what intrigues me most about her work.  The juxtaposition of ‘trivial’ materials with moments of timeless significance suggests a world permeated with sacramental graciousness.  In many of her works, this juxtaposition is exaggerated by her clever and insightful use of contemporary scenes that evoke the long tradition of genre painting.  Within these ‘ordinary’ moments, McCleary draws our attention to meanings that overflow the mundane.  Her images manifest a remarkable fullness.  They are full as ‘obsessive images’ that betray the patience and concentration required to make them, but they are also full as images of metaphorical and symbolic depth.

Please take a look at Mary’s website.

Children of the Apple Tree. 2000. 44.5×74″, Mixed Media Collage on Paper.

Plato’s Cave. 2006. 22.5×30″, Mixed Media Collage on Paper.

To Be Redeemed From Fire By Fire. 1999. 45×74″, Mixed Media Collage on Paper.

Allegory of the Senses. 2002. 48×72.875″, Mixed Media Collage on Paper.


  • Jim Watkins is the assistant editor and a regular contributor at Transpositions. Originally, Jim is from southern California and southeastern Texas, but sometimes he feels most at home in the landscape and coffee shops of the Pacific Northwest. He met his wife Emily at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he studied Studio Art (concentration in painting). For his PhD research, he is examining the relationship between divine and human creativity from the perspective of divine kenosis.

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