A burning artistic passion

Jay McCafferty, who creates work by burning paper with a magnifying glass, is among artists featured in 'OC Collects.'

December 20, 2012|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Orange County Museum of Art's chief curator Dan Cameron stands next to Jay McCafferty's piece "Merge with Dust" in the "OC Collects" show.
Orange County Museum of Art's chief curator Dan… (SCOTT SMELTZER )

For Jay McCafferty, a beloved childhood gift became the genesis of his artistic trademark.

"My aunt gave me a stamp collection when I was a kid, which included a magnifying glass," McCafferty, 64, said. "Wherever I went, that magnifying glass moved to the next tool drawer with me."

An art class at graduate school took McCafferty out into the sun and prompted him to try his hand at an activity that he had enjoyed growing up. With the help of his magnifying glass, he created sunburns on graph paper within a grid pattern.

"No matter what else I created, people's eyes were drawn to that wall piece," recalled the San Pedro resident.

A believer that great art is produced by someone totally engulfed by a craft, McCafferty can spend hours immersed in solar burning, which, for him, is a "magical process."

"There is a predetermined spot where I focus attention and light," McCafferty said. "But what happens after the fire ignites and paper begins burning is free will. It's a 'controlled accident' — a dynamic that I find very profound and interesting."


McCafferty is one of 47 artists showcased at "OC Collects," an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Orange County Museum of Art. Curated by director Dennis Szakacs and chief curator Dan Cameron, the program highlights selections from private modern and contemporary art collectors in the community.

"When people think of Orange County, they don't automatically think 'art collectors,'" said Cameron. "And yet, good collectors don't just belong to this area now. They have been here for a long time. We thought this was a great opportunity to display a cross section of the different collecting approaches here while creating a space where artists, art lovers and collectors can all meet and have an exchange."


'Based on the best'

"OC Collects," which closes Dec. 30, provides a venue for both established and emerging talent, as well as local and international artists. The paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and text arranged chronologically throughout nine rooms, spanning everything from minimalism to pop art and abstract expressionism to hard-edge paintings, also set up an interplay between artists who are household names and others who are lesser known.

After conducting in-depth research, Szakacs and Cameron contacted and visited more than 20 collectors in the community before narrowing it down to 15, including Anton D. Segerstrom, Mary and Dan Solomon, Marsha and Darrel Anderson.

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