Fantasy worlds

Artist David McCamant unveils his dreams

“Stair Light” by David McCamant.

“Stair Light” by David McCamant.

Photo By David Robert

Sometimes, truth can only be accessed by way of the fairy tale.

The works of David McCamant are works of fantasy—not the dark, hallucinatory fantasies of surrealism—but the sort fairy tales are made of. Many of the pieces, McCamant says, were drawn from his own dreams. He has, however, left out any trace of the nightmares; there is a captivating innocence to McCamant’s dream world.

“I’m not really aware of where [my paintings] come from,” McCamant says. “They seem to want to be that way.”

McCamant seems to be trying to reach for something higher—or deeper—than everyday life, for a truth that can be felt rather than experienced. He paints only from his imagination, using no photos or other references as a guide. Accordingly, McCamant has titled his current exhibit, now on display at Esoteric Gallery, Introspectives, a title that describes his contemplative nature and also, he hopes, the manner in which his audience will receive the collection.

“I want to make it so that you can get lost in it,” McCamant says. “I want it to be a stepping-off point.”

“Golden Afternoon” (acrylic on canvas) brings the viewer to perhaps the highest, most fantastical ledge, in more ways than one. We view the landscape of “Golden Afternoon” from a cliff; before us is an inlet—a narrow, yellowed body of water framed by mountains on either side. Light streams in through the mountains, intense at the inlet’s entrance, becoming gradually diffuse.

The eye can’t help but want to follow this light. The inlet feeds into a sea; on its other shore is a distant city with high walls, bathed in light and fog. While the scene in the foreground is beautiful, the half-glimpsed one looks completely magical. “There is always something else,” the painting seems to be saying. “Something beyond imagination.”

“I contemplated what it would be like to stand on a cliff and see a kind of heaven,” McCamant says.

Other works, such as “A Mid-summer’s Day” (acrylic on canvas), show an impossibly vivid nature, a nature so crisp and so perfect that it could have been digitized by a Disney animator, with its all-too-real veneer. The subject of “Mid-summer’s Day” is not extraordinary—lush trees, a meadow, blue sky and massive white clouds—but everything in the scene feels amplified, particularly the vibrant color.

McCamant’s talent for hinting at the unknown, for making us want to follow a stream of light—or a shadow—back to its source, is at its simplest and most intense in “Stair Light” (acrylic on canvas). We see only the lower half of a winding staircase and, adjacent to the staircase, an archway. The setting is clearly outdoors, perhaps outside a cafe. But the architecture is ancillary; the painting is really about the marriage and divorce of darkness and light.

It is nighttime, and everything is pitch black, except for two streams of light: the pale blue moonlight that floods through the archway, and the soft yellow light that streams down the stairs. The light from the archway streams past the stairs, almost meeting the stair light at a right angle.

“I had a dream [in which] I was being called up the stairs,” McCamant says. “I sketched ‘Stair Light’ in five minutes, and it’s 89 percent to 90 percent exact to the experience.”

The image in "Stair Light" is simple and powerful; it made me want to find my way into the painting, climb the stairs and find the secret that lies just beyond.