Visionary artist Leigh McCloskey isn’t your typical Hollywood actor.
All photos by Tanja M. Laden
In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how creative freedom enables LA-based artists to make spiritual work as part of their practices.
It's almost impossible to believe that Leigh McCloskey's visionary art comes from the same place as a guy who once played a ponytailed yoga instructor on 3rd Rock From the Sun, or someone named "Drake Faraday" in a soap opera. Yet the artist's seemingly bottomless well of creativity is manifested not just in his acting, but in every part of his life and living space—especially his awe-inspiring painted library of occultism and esoterica.
Born and raised in the LA area, McCloskey studied acting at Juilliard in order to understand the inner workings and motivations of different archetypes. But while he’s made a career out of playing complicated characters—often villains—he's always been an artist, or, as he more accurately calls himself, a "visual philosopher."
It was the very same impetus to connect with people through energy that led McCloskey to explore a deeper archetypal structure by first illustrating the tarot 30 years ago. Since then, his paintings, drawings, and illustrations have been recognized by the likes of Keith Richards, who used parts of McCloskey's hand-painted Grimoire (Book of Magickal Spells) as background visuals on a Rolling Stones tour; as well as Flying Lotus, who featured McCloskey's art on the cover of his third studio album, Cosmogramma.
Meanwhile, McCloskey has been writing about arcane topics such as the Kabbalah and William Blake, and has established an organization called the Olandar Foundation for Emerging Renaissance (OFFER). He and his wife Carla have also been hosting regular gatherings and discussion groups examining eastern and western traditions, as well as everything from theosophy and perennial philosophy to Jungian psychology.
In the vein of Jung, McCloskey likens the home to the human psyche; stepping inside his is like venturing into an immersive theatrical experience. Inside, deities and their secrets and revelations come to life in an all-encompassing painted library, whirling like dervishes in a psychedelic dance of the senses.
Describing his house, McCloskey tells The Creators Project, "Everything is about the interconnected psyche, meaning that every room has a different conversation. So when we ascend, we pass through the domestic plane, the question of, 'How do we live together?' And when we ascend into the living library, into the painted cave, we return to the primary technology of paint, storytelling, and imagination."
McCloskey began working on his library after 9/11, when he started to not only question how to proverbially love his neighbor, but how to actually “live the intimacy of the truth of the human heart.” He set out to navigate and explore the unknown mechanisms behind the collective human experience, thus allowing his unconscious to materialize.
"It's an indigenous way of working, which is not to illustrate anything, but to evoke, to embody, to draw forth," McCloskey says. "Suddenly you oxygenate: you're actually able to have a type of spaciousness that isn't any one thing, but draws almost in a type of nonlocal, nonlinear sense. And what you were looking at was not the problem, and that's not what you're actually solving. It was this larger, more spacious perspective that allowed you to breathe [...] to essentially shut your eyes, to trust your energy. And from the energy comes the optics."
Appropriately, McCloskey has christened his library "the Hieroglyph of the Human Soul." Amidst the textured painted spines of bibles and compendiums on art and religion are secret canvases revealing hidden deities, and even more painted patterns on family photo albums. Even the ceiling and walls are painted to call attention to the idea that we are all facets of a great cosmological kaleidoscope of creativity. This leads to yet another unexpected surprise: McCloskey's entire library and its paintings are all in 3D, taking on an entirely new perspective with the help of 3D glasses.
"I wasn't expecting it to be 3D; I didn't figure out how to do it," McCloskey says. "It was inherent in the questions I was asking, as if consciousness itself is saying, 'You see, I'm far more clever than you think I am, because you think I'm as clever as you are, and you're not that clever.'"
Regardless of the nature of his creative encounters, McCloskey's artistic journey always brings him back home, which is really the point. "This is not, in a way, symbols to represent something. This a literal embodied symbolism, meaning this is my home: this is private space, this is intimate space," McCloskey explains. "Only when you return to what is intimate in your human heart can you find the truth that you are not alone, but that you are in all ages simultaneously, and you are woven of the entire whole and holy story of being human."
Visit Leigh McCloskey’s website here.