Memorializing Maverick Artist and Mentor Manon Cleary
Guests were greeted by a bagpiper as they arrived at The Arts Club of Washington on Jan. 20 to celebrate the life of art scene icon Manon Cleary. Manon’s husband F. Steven Kijek encouraged everyone gathered in the Monroe Gallery to “dig deep in your hearts for memories and speak.” When they met, Manon was active on the social scene and Steven recalled voicing some hesitation en route to an embassy reception, to which Manon replied “we don’t need social standing. We’re artists, they want us.” Manon’s twin Shirley Cleary-Cooper recalled their St. Louis childhood when they dressed alike and replied to “twin.” Jean Lawlor Cohen spoke of the irony of Manon’s fondness for sfumato or smoky light portraits given her long illness precipitated by chemical poisoning and too many cigarettes. Other speakers recalled her conviction that an artist must support the art world. Arts Club President Jack Hannula read his poem “Ode to Manon Cleary.” A caregiver said “she lived inside her private life like outside.” A mentored art student recalled her present of a book inscribed to him as “my window on the future.” The tribute ended with a slide presentation honoring a “friend, wife, sister, teacher, artist.” The ensuing reception was alive with memories. Manon and her beloved white rats were present in spirit.