Donna Troy Cleary uses Art and Herbalism to reflect on the ways of the ancient Irish Healer, Wild Woman, "Witch". Embodying this historically significant woman, she reclaims a realm of the feminine that was passed from mother to daughter. The center of communities, these women organized against wealthy landlords in Europe in the early Middle Ages. To disrupt their power, the landlords and the church organized a smear campaign - calling these powerful women witches, saying they worked with the devil. And people bought it. It is thought that millions of women were burned at the stake during this frenzy, turning communities against each other and effectively eliminating the opposition. The timing of this politically charged reclamation is significant and critical.
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. 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. Donna's art takes the form of sculpture, video, photography, social practice and now, Herbalism.
Coming full circle, she is a Level III Apprentice Herbalist, focusing on plant medicine and the belief systems, rituals, ceremonies and objects that accompany medicinal vehicles. She also founded and runs Spiral Herbal Remedies, an all organic alternative to Big Pharma and Big Brands. She creates fertility sculptures and ceremonial objects from crocheted yarn with both contemporary and 1950's-era domestic paraphernalia, commingling the Feminine Mystique and Pagan Goddess Symbolism with a culture of planned obsolescence. In these gestures she re-empowers that political space and reclaims her history. Fertility is not only about reproduction, it tranditionally has referenced the cycles of life and death, the landscape, regeneration, the necessity of both male and female energy and abundance.
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.
Humor and tactility are an integral part in this work. It is a way around opposition, sneaking 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. When permission is granted, suggestions of the body, giddy childhood humor and desire collide.