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 once passed from mother to daughter. Central to their community, these women knew everyone intimately. When they organized against wealthy landlords in Europe in the early Middle Ages, a law was created that claimed they were working with the devil. They were called witches and systematically killed, communities were turned against each other and the opposition was eliminated. The timing of this politically charged reclamation is significant and critical.
Cultural anthropological investigations restore and affirm the inherent power of 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, past and present, metaphysical and “real”.
A descendent of Irish Herbalists, Donna reclaims knowledge that was scrubbed from her familial consciousness under British occupation. Her adult life started as a 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, and social practice. After training for 3 years as an Herbalist, she founded Spiral Herbal Remedies in 2016, an all organic alternative to Big Pharma and Big Brands. She also founded and runs 184 Project Space, a curatorial project that she runs out of her home.
Additionally, she creates fertility sculptures, ceremonial objects and performative costumes from crocheted yarn with both contemporary and 1950's-era domestic paraphernalia. She commingles the Feminine Mystique and Pagan Goddess Symbolism with a culture of planned obsolescence. Fertility is not only about reproduction, it traditionally has referenced the cycles of life and death, health and illness, the landscape, regeneration, the necessity of both male and female energy and abundance.
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.