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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of the artist and Moody Gallery, Houston, Texas.

The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer

Artist: Mary McCleary (born 1951)
Date: 2008
39 1/2 x 50 3/4 in. (100.3 x 128.9 cm)
Medium: Mixed media collage on paper
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.20
Signed: l.r.: M. McCleary 2008
On View
Accession Number: 2009.20
Provenanceto (Moody Gallery, Houston, TX); purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2009
Label TextThis collage is made by attaching layers of everyday materials such as paper, twigs, rope segments and other found objects on heavy paper. Mary McCleary realistically uses three-dimensional objects as a means to achieve illusionistic representation that is simultaneously abstract and conceptual. Notice at the bottom of the collage are the first two lines of William Butler Yeats' poem The Second Coming (1919):

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer

Yeats used religious symbolism in his poem to express his anguish over the impact of the First World War on Western civilization. Loss and distress are suggested by the young man in the foreground who stares outward, toward the viewer, whose presence remains mysterious but who seems to serve as a kind of "witness." The artificial tree at the left, flecks of glitter, and other ornament-like materials and colors recall a tragic but all too commonplace occurrence during the holiday season; a fire set through human inattention or carelessness. Are these, then, the incipient causes for both individual and collective devastation, as in Yeats' nightmarish vision and McCleary's strangely familiar dream?