Donna Troy Cleary

Donna Troy Cleary uses sculpture, video, photography and social practice to reflect on the ways of the ancient Healer, Wild Woman, "Witch". Cultural anthropological investigations restore and affirm the inherent power of the feminine and the unseen labor of the domestic space. Perceived boundaries between instinct and cultural construct are questioned as her work hovers between the physical and psychological, external and internal, past and present, mythic and real.  

Donna is interested in traditional healing practices.  As a descendent of Irish Herbalists, she reclaims knowledge that was scrubbed from her familial consciousness under British occupation. Her adult life started as an Registered Nurse, working in a major teaching hospital in Boston.  After 13 years, she left to raise two children while studying and making art. Her art is about honoring time spent in care-based activities, important work that is still not valued by our culture.  Most of it doesn't fit neatly into a resume or hold weight in job interviews. In 2010, she returned to school, studying undergraduate art at Columbia University and The School of Visual Arts. In 2014.  She received an MFA in Fine Arts from The School of Visual Arts.

Coming full circle, she is now a Level III Apprentice Herbalist, focusing on the belief systems, rituals, ceremonies and objects that accompany medicinal vehicles.  Creating fertility sculptures and ceremonial objects from crocheted yarn with both contemporary and 1950's-era domestic paraphernalia, she comingles the Feminine Mystique, Pagan Goddess Symbolism with a culture of planned obsolescence.  In these gestures she re-empower that political space and reclaims her history.  Fertility is not just about reproduction but also refers to the cycles of life and death, the landscape, regeneration, the necessity of both male and female energy and abundance.

Humor and tactility are an integral part in this work. Humor is a way around opposition: it sneaks knowledge and wisdom in through a back door, without threat. Often it is through touch that humor hits home. When encountering this work, it is tempting to squeeze it but art has set a precedent, one must ask permission.  When granted, suggestions of the body, giddy childhood humor and desire collide.