Donna Troy Cleary

36. Honestly!

Donna Troy ClearyComment

"People ask me why it's so hard to trust people. The real question is why is it so hard for people to tell the truth." Unknown

Recently someone encouraged me to embellish a little regarding some of my herbal remedies.  I told them that the center of my practice was trust. If I just make stuff up  a) I lose credibility and  b) it will be written all over my face. I'm the worst liar and I'm actually proud of that. It's something I've never aspired to be better at and it's not a quality I admire in others.

So why do people lie? Sometimes it gives them an upper hand but I've found, it is always temporary. And by the way, I always know when someone is lying. Ask my kids...  In a way I feel sorry for them because they literally never got away with anything. Sorry guys.  :)  

I haven't always trusted my BS meter but it has always been extremely perceptive. Something in my body reacts. It's a physical thing. I feel tense, my heart flutters a bit and all my senses turn on. Suddenly I'm paying attention to the lowered eyes, the fidgeting, the yawn, the subject change and bingo! - I've caught them.

As women, in this culture in particular, we're trained to be nice, to give people a second chance, to not prejudge, to give the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't always serve us. We have powerful instincts, designed to keep us safe. We might not have to avoid predators in the woods anymore but the lies of others are often damaging to us. Our bodies are giant geiger counters, finely tuned to pick up other's intentions. Take some time to hone that.

I suppose if someone is in an oppressive situation and their very life depends on a lie, that's one thing but what about serial liars? What about seemingly successful people who can't utter a sentence without spewing a falsehood? We have a shining example of that in our current government. How were they made? Why were they never called out? Is it safe to assume that they were never taught, at a young age, to own their mistakes and own the consequences? What makes them think they can get away with it? And how do they manage the guilt?

In the end it's really not about them. It's about how you manage the effects of the lies on you. I know I tend to linger in outrage for a while, probably longer than I should. But lately, I'm finding that if I let that outrage sit for a day or so before responding, I can transmute it. This keeps me from striking out and saying something mean or defensive that actually hurts me in the end. If I sit on it, I can see it more clearly, the motivation behind it and respond accordingly. 

Rest assured that the truth will always out, as they say. Be patient. Maybe you didn't get the job you wanted, the recognition you deserve, your moment to shine, maybe somehow your name has been tarnished. Assume that others are picking up the blips as well. Maybe they have been burned by this person too. Some might be persuaded initially. Trust that their BS meters are sending them signals. Those who are practiced at manipulating the truth will have their moment in the sun... perhaps at your expense... but eventually they will turn their lies on someone else and all will become clear.

Then you can quietly gloat, revelling in the inevitable justice of sweet, sweet karma. Your time will come.

Indulge me for a moment... Let me try that again.

Then you can sit quietly, knowing that all is well and your time will come.

34. Fear of Falling

Donna Troy ClearyComment

Do you remember how it felt when you first met someone that made your heart go pitter patter? Remember thinking about them constantly? All you wanted was be near them, circle their orbit, touch their skin and kiss? The physical longing was somewhere on the edge of pain and sheer delight.  

How many times has THAT happened to you? It seemed to happen more often when I was younger. Somehow every good looking guy that could string a sentence together, make me laugh or twist my brain with a new perspective, had the potential to leave me spinning with excitement. 

I had a long talk with some of my women friends last week. Men and dating seem to come up often when we get together. New York is tough for dating. What is with these men? What is with unrealistic expectations about beauty, independence, age or whatever other fantasy-based list of must-haves that this city has conditioned them to expect. Who, exactly is fulfilling that list? How long can the women they do choose keep up the guise that the list is realistic?

It seems no one I know is falling head over heels anymore. At least not in this city.  My friends range in age from 20 to 40 something - so it's not about age.

I'm in the dating game. I say to myself, "Maybe it will get better. Maybe he's just busy now and it will ease up. Maybe he just needs time to feel comfortable. Maybe I need to help him communicate better. Maybe MY expectations are too high... Maybe this is enough."  

Ugh, that last part is a killer. Since when is "enough" enough? Honestly, I think fear has a lot to do with our ability to fall in love. That initial high, at least to me, represents danger. It clouds all judgement. It keeps me from really seeing the person. You get your heart knocked around a few times and suddenly, offering it to someone else is like asking to have your hand chopped off, without anaesthesia. I'm wary. And I've thought, often, that I'm better off alone. There was only one time that I allowed myself to fall completely. I made a choice to open up, bare it all, dig into the deepest of places. I realized I was capable of that. It was an accomplishment and I have no regrets. The thing is, it was by far, the most difficult when it ended. 

Recently, that ah-ha moment came when I reminded myself that despite it all, I'm still alive - maybe more than ever. I've grown and evolved and I like who I have become. 

It's only recently that I realized the conundrum I've placed myself in. How am I supposed to figure out if someone is compatible if I've put the wall back up? How can we find footing if they never see that vulnerable part of me that is pure joy, that giggling, shiney light that radiates within me, that peace that orbits the planet, circles my body and penetrates deeply?

How do I not bring fear to the table or bar, coffee shop, park, bike ride, museum? Could it be as simple as deciding?

First things first, he has to show up. Then, I think, it's all up to me.

"The biggest risk is not taking any risk."


Here are some updates on what's happening with my Art and Herbalism!

I was interviewed by Kimberly Ruth for Art Uncovered. Kimberly managed to guide the discussion in such a way that I learned some new things about my own work.  Check it out.  The interview starts at around 6:40.


I'm teaching again at Mildred's Lane this spring in the Session Wilding, Wasting, Workstyling Session.  So honored to be part of this impressive group of artists, including J Morgan Puett herself - the cofounder with Mark Dion of Mildred's Lane. I'll be taking participating fellows on plant walks, identifying, gathering and drying plants for remedies.  June 18-24th.  It's just around the corner.  


I've been selected to participate in Art In Odd Places, New York!  I'm doing a performance called Becoming Cailleach. Cailleach is the Irish Creator Goddess. It is thought that the Sheela na gig, found carved in relief all around Ireland is a manifestation of the Goddess. She dons an oversized vulva through which all life passes and an angry grimace as if to warn those who see her of her all-encompassing control over life and death. I've crocheted the costume out of yarn and integrated the Tree Goddess, found in sacred groves - the site of Druidic ceremonies. Kathy Halfin (embodying Kali) and I will be perform healing ceremonies while interacting with audiences along 14th Street in Manhattan this October.  Details to follow.

The event is accompanied by an exhibition at Westbeth Gallery in Greenwich Village.  Can't wait!!  This exhibition is curated by Katya Grokhovsky an amazing artist as well.


I started a business!  If you haven't heard from me in the last 3 months, it's because I decided to throw my hat in the ring and start an herbalism business. It's called Spiral Herbal Remedies. I've created a line of preventative remedies, along with variety of products designed to treat specific ailments.  I've also developed several non-toxic alternatives to Big Brand products. So many people I see at my shop are inflamed. I believe it has to do with toxins in the processed foods and products we consume and use. They are for "Detoxing" and designed to get to the source of the problem.  

Spiral Herbal Remedies can be found at Artists and Fleas, Williamsburg every weekend from 10-7 and online @ Spiral Herbal Remedies


  Becoming Cailleach .  This October in Art In Odd Places, New York.  

Becoming Cailleach.  This October in Art In Odd Places, New York.  

 One of many alternatives at  Spiral Herbal Remedies.   Again, available at @artistsandfleas Williamsburg, every weekend from 10-7.

One of many alternatives at Spiral Herbal Remedies.  Again, available at @artistsandfleas Williamsburg, every weekend from 10-7.

33. What a pain.

Donna Troy ClearyComment


First some news, followed by some ponderings... about the avoidance of pain.

Please come this Saturday, April 14th from 6-9 pm to Gallery AWA in Greenpoint for a panel discussion that aligns with the exhibition, Sacred Luminosity 2: Shakti

The Goddesses Amongst Us

Joining gallery artists Anshula Tayai and Tara Boirard will be Daria Dorosh, Jayanthi Moorthy and I.  After a lively brainstorming session about what to cover during this panel, it is sure to be fascinating!! 

***You can imagine how much this concept appeals to me as I continue on a path to embody the Cailleach/Sheela na gig/Healer/Wisewoman.


And now for some reflections...

So much of life can be painful. In fact, our entrance into this world is arguably, one of the most painful things we'll ever experience. It's so traumatic that we literally block it from our memory. (Do any of you remember being born?) Imagine being squeezed so tightly that your head is forced into a cone shape. 

Have you ever cried out during a deep muscle massages? What if the masseuse intentionally forced both of your shoulders downward or maybe folded one up and the other down and pushed you through an opening half your width? And then your neck was pushed backwards at an acute angle, while your bones and muscles were squeezed with so much pressure that you were literally propelled forward. You survived. You, a tiny, fragile being. Now think of your mom. You've seen the Try Guys experiencing simulated labor? Right. So many of us moms choose to go through that more than once. 

This reminds me of watching a documentary about a cave a while back. After entering a cave filled with water, the main character's goal was to reach a massive cavern on the other side of the cave wall. It was only accessible through the tiniest of passageways. She had to dive through a hole near the bottom of the water-filled cave. It was barely wide enough for her body and several yards long, with no room for turning around. Once she committed to swim, that was it.

The risk was running out of breath before reaching the other side. She dove nonetheless, head first, kicking calmly and strongly.  She was unable to use her arms, they had to be stretched out in front of her to fit. And then she was at the point of no return. She had swum in as far as it was to reach the other side. Pushing herself backwards was no longer an option.

So often we are faced with these passages, the lure of something unexpected revealing itself. It's frightening or difficult and it might seem easier to stay stationary. Instead of scoffing at it, we notice that it feels familiar - like family - like it is part of us. Like it was meant to be. Once we decide to engage, worry can cause mental and physical pain. Like being faced with the idea of swimming head first into a tiny hole. And then we realize that everything we've done to date has prepared us for this. We've actually had hundreds of practice dives. 

When we finally lift your head out of the water and breathe deeply, not fully understanding how this new space holds enough oxygen, we fill our lungs completely with fresh, clean air. Air that few, if any have ever breathed and it's as if we're taking that first breath of life all over again.  

It seems like so many people I've spoken to lately are transitioning in their lives. I'm there as well. I've lost sleep worrying about launching Spiral Herbal Remedies at Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg. Can I do this? Will I be able to help people? Will people respond?  (I'm there every Saturday and Sunday from 10-7.)

I forgot how much I enjoyed teaching. In this case, about our plant allies, the plants and fungi that occupy the same space, live in the same air/soil, experience the same trauma from our shifting ecosystem and still want to help us heal. 

I worried about other facets of my life as well. What about my art career? Will the art world understand?  I'm not just giving my life a philosophical framework, I'm living it. 

Malidoma Some', a West African Elder of the Dagara people, calls these transitions "Initiations" in his book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa. He reminds us that transitions signal the onset of tremendous growth. Indigenous cultures have always framed them with ceremony, which brings focus to the transition and creates an atmosphere of support. What has happened to our ceremonies? What can we do in our daily lives to resurrect them?  Do you give yourself permission to slow down and contemplate your life or ask for help?

Malidoma will be coming to Brooklyn this Fall. My elder and teacher in Herbalism, Karen Rose, of Sacred Vibes Apothecary and my Herbalism sisters are making arrangements for him to speak.  I will share details as we draw closer.

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

See below to view a performative costume:  Becoming Cailleach

Copyright © *2018, Donna Cleary All rights reserved.

32. Art and Herbalism

Donna Troy ClearyComment

Join me this Friday, April 6th, 6-8 pm at A.I.R Gallery

An Evening of  Stories from Ireland and India between artist/healer/wise-woman Donna Cleary and artist Jayanthi Moorthy in conjunction with the exhibition Daria Dorosh: Take Back Your Body. A discussion of the legacy of the matrifocal cultures of Ireland and India and their impact on these artists and their art.  Come for an experience of the senses in taste, touch, scent and sounds.

(see the similarities between the Sheela na gig and Kali below)


Coming up at Mildred's Lane - I'll be a Visiting Guest Artist for the Wilding, Wasting, Workstyling session June 18-24th. There is still time to apply and entangle yourself with a dynamic pedagogic lineup of artists at Mildred's Lane including J. Morgan Puett herself, the powerhouse behind this ongoing project with Mark Dion. You will have an opportunity to harvest and process local medicinal plants while learning the traditions of wildcrafting, an ancient practice that acknowledges the necessity of respect and reciprocity between humans and the landscape, along with many projects by other artists.   Donna Cleary, Daria Dorosh, Athena Kokoronis, Kristyna and Marek Milde, J. Morgan Puett, Shelley Spector, Amy Low Stein and others.

(see photo of the vast landscape that is Mildred's Lane, below)


And of course, Join me weekends with Spiral Herbal Remedies at Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg.
Come sample a variety of healing plants, including Super Reishi Plus - a mix of 6 medicinal mushrooms that I ethically wildcrafted in the deep forest and meticulously made into a Preventative tincture.  I also have a line of CBD products including tincture/oil and salves.

 Sheela na gig (Ireland)  and Kali (India).

Sheela na gig (Ireland)  and Kali (India).

 Part of the vast landscape that is Mildred's Lane.  

Part of the vast landscape that is Mildred's Lane.  

 Just some of the products available on this website under Spiral Herbal Remedies. Also available weekends at Artists and Fleas Williamsburg.  Come visit to sample some herbal remedies!

Just some of the products available on this website under Spiral Herbal Remedies. Also available weekends at Artists and Fleas Williamsburg.  Come visit to sample some herbal remedies!

31. Is Time on your side?

Donna Troy ClearyComment

"How did it get so late so soon."  Suess

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”  Jean de La Bruyere


Do you spend time thinking about time?  What if you knew that you had enough time to do everything you wished?  Would it change the way you spend your day?  

A few years ago, I flipped the narrative and stopped acting like Alice's proverbial bunny.  Of all things, it was a random internet meme that shifted my perspective - one of those questionnaires that predicted how long I would live.  I would live to be 106.  And for some reason I believed it.  For some reason, it resonated with me.  It made me smile.  Suddenly anything was possible.  If I had another 50 or so years, I imagined all that I could accomplish, all that I could do.  

What followed was a peace of mind I hadn't experienced before.  Time was on my side for once.  I gave myself permission to explore every tangent, the abandon to examine and mine every sweet distraction.  The script was tossed aside and regimented, single minded, repetitive, boring, frustrating pursuit of some imagined path to success, fame, peace, love and joy was abandoned.  Instead, I followed my mind.  If something interested me, I leaned in.  If leaning in brought me to some other place of fascination, I leaned into that.  And so on.

This gift has allowed me hours of reflection and insightfulness.  When the past rises up, I experience it again but through a new lense.  I have time to dawdle, to rest... or not rest, to stay out late or stay home watching senseless movies or working on a project until the early morning.  Time has become my patient friend, ever present, no longer annoying.  If I don't get to something?  It wasn't meant to be, something else always comes up.  

And here I am with a perimeter of practices, friends and family that buoy and embrace me.  Crocheted fertility sculptures and performative costumes, a project space that supports and builds community, a (mostly social) book group accompanied by friends and literature that trigger thought and action, Herbalism which aligns me with ancestors, provides an outlet for knowledge acquired as a Registered Nurse and Mother and anchors me with a deeply inspiring community.  My two adult children give me time when they have it.  I no longer worry about how much.  They have rich, full lives.  My parents are thriving and happy, also living rich, full lives.  My siblings pick up the phone, respond to texts and our time together is precious, without guilt.  Old friends visit, circle, communicate and connect.

Today, my gift to you is this: You will live to be 106. 

Just for today, allow yourself to believe.  Just for today, notice if anything shifts.


If you're curious about some of my tangents, see below.

I'll be part of a panel discussion at A.I.R on April 6th during the Take Back Your Body exhibition by Daria Dorosh.  We'll be talking about the Sheela na gig, thought to represent the Irish Deity, Cailleach, whose likeness adorns hundreds of Romanesque churches around Ireland and Britain.  She is the goddess of summer and winter, creator of life and death, mythical crone, wise woman, Healer.  

I'll also be participating in a panel discussion at El Museo de los Sures, on March 24, 5-6pm. for the exhibition, Darkness Visible by Simone Couto   We'll be talking about the landscape and our relationship to it as humans.

Come June, I'll be returning to Mildred's Lane as a Visiting Guest Artist, for the Wilding, Wasting, Workstyling Session, June 18th - 24th.  I'll be sharing Herbalism knowledge while foraging, drying and processing plants and fungi during this inspiring Artist Residency run by J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion.

And lastly, Spiral Herbal Remedies will return once again to  Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg.  (Every Saturday and Sunday from 10-7).  The shop carries Medicinal Mushroom Tinctures, CBD Tincture and Salve, Salve for Eczema, a Tincture for Memory and More.  This week I'm introducing Comb Again Serum, for Hair loss due to Alopecia or Male Pattern Balding.  And Yoni Yes! a Yoni healing, CBD infused lube, for pain during intercourse.  Did you know that this affects a third of all women, regardless of age?  

This weekend at Artists and Fleas and coming soon to my Spiral Herbal Remedies website.

Below is a preview of a costume I'm making for an upcoming performance:  Becoming Cailleach based on the Sheela na gig, whose likeness appears on hundreds of Romanesque churches throughout Ireland and thought to be an iteration of the Cailleach.  She has merged with Yoni, Tree Goddess, and the Willendorf Venus, representing the cyclical nature of life and death, abundance and infinity.

Becoming Cailleach.jpg

30. Setting up shop!

Donna Troy ClearyComment

This weekend I'll be setting up shop at Artists and Fleas #artistsandfleas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Come sample and buy Ginkgo and Reishi tinctures along with Body Butters, salves, balms and sprays.

Talk to an Herbalist. Learn about preventative medicine that every New Yorker should use.  Everything is Organic, freshly made with ethically wildcrafted herbs, using the best ingredients.  No water, no air (the butters are not whipped), no glycerine, no toxins.  

Come check it out!

29, Chronicles of a Witch in Training

Donna Troy ClearyComment

I started this blog in March of 2017 after returning from a trip to my ancestral land - Ireland.  There, I received affirmation that I was on the right track with my life - as it all came together in my art, project space and herbalism practice.  I discovered a history of Herbalists on both sides of my family which formulated a conceptual framework for everything I do - from being a mom, making ceremonial and fertility sculptures, running an Herbal Remedy Shop and providing opportunities for cultural exchange through 184 Project Space.

The posts are in chronological order, starting with #1, so you'll have to scroll down to get to the beginning.  In them I illuminate a series of coincidences, serendipity - magical experiences in Ireland.  These are followed by of the history of Herbalism in Western European countries and how we lost our rich traditions.  I started my Herbalism Shop in the spring of 2017, so you'll find me talking a lot about the specific herbs and fungi I work with.  And sometimes I just contemplate life and all of its idiosyncrasies.  

Thanks for your interest.  Enjoy!


27. Out of the light and down a big hole.

Donna Troy ClearyComment

Have you noticed..

...that as artists we have a built-in need to be in the limelight, on the radar?  It compels us to keep ungodly hours, say yes to every opportunity, push ourselves past the point of exhaustion and even common sense.  We jump on the treadmill for months at a time, "eye on the prize", onward and upward.  Maybe it's New York, maybe it's art, whatever it is, it seems like the last year has been an all-out sprint.  And I've loved every second of it.
But I've been taking a break.  Over the last two months, I've dug myself in and retreated to my rabbit warren.  I've said 'no' to people who have asked me to do projects with them.  I'm catching up on the rest of my life.  It's winter.  It has been frigid outside. This helps.  I've settled some nagging financial issues, "found" money in the process, have been reading, researching, making art, making medicine and even... making space mentally for a love interest. 
New York is challenging for women, considering the ratio of men to women.  But in all honesty, I'm not sure I've been in the right mindset to have a man around.  I'm ambitious, I have goals and maybe I have been a bit unwilling and nervous about setting aside time, again.  Life has a way of giving us what we ask for.  So I'm dialing it back and focusing.  And it feels right.
Maybe the list above doesn't sound like time off.  Technically, it's time off from putting my efforts towards creating opportunities for others - curating ate up a lot of my energy.  It is something I love doing but it was time to turn inward, focus on me, making, my needs.  These shifts in focus tend to be cyclical.  Like the seasons, I move from one state of mind to another.  Funny enough, in my contemplative period, despite some anxiety about taking my foot off the gas and not actively looking for opportunities, they kept presenting themselves.  I have a teaching opportunity coming up.  I will be sharing how my art practice has come to embody all aspects of the wise woman/healer/medicine woman, including making ceremonial objects, medicine and creating spaces for shared cultural experiences, (curating and my Project Space).  I've been asked to do an interview for an art publication and will have an article published in another.  I have also been invited to be on a panel in gallery in March.  We'll be talking about feminism and the Irish, Pagan deity, the Sheela na gig, who has been in the center of my thinking over the last months.  (Details later...)
For now, back to the point.  Is this frantic phenomenon unique to New York?  Is it the 21st century?  Is it normal to set such a crazy pace for ourselves?  I've lectured my son about his insane schedule as a Neurosurgical resident and couldn't fathom why my daughter would work until 8 or 9pm on a regular basis.  But I was doing the same. 
These schedules give opportunities for our bodies to succumb to illness.  We have limited supplies of energy and we need to dedicate some of it to healthy eating, cleared minds, focus on loved ones and rest. 
How much is enough?  How much is too much?  Who decided this was what our lives should look like?  And more importantly, does it actually serve us?  Are we happier?  Are we more secure?  What happens when we take time for ourselves?  What happens when we spend more time with family, friends, loved ones, with people who support and honor us? 
I have a magnificent group of friends here in NYC.  These are people who will show up if I ask for help.  I know this.  They have, routinely.  This gives me solace.  Do I want a partner too?  Yes.  What will that look like?  How will he fit in?  I haven't found the proper balance in the past.  I've given too much, not enough or a combination of the two at various times.  Maybe it has to be cyclical, like my work.
I'm asking these questions because I know I'm not alone.  I've talked to many of you and I know that this is what we do.  I look around and I see exhaustion and equal ambition in my peers.  I'm wondering how often you take your foot off the gas and take a break, take some time off, slow it down, take a nap (!), think, read, research and live the rest of your life? 
Maybe it's time.

As usual, this post started a newsletter, sent out to my mailing list and now it has become part of this blog, where I share strange coincidences, experiences and insights that have shaped my life and practice. 

If you're interested in Herbal Remedies from a trained Herbalist (me), or want to check out some of my ceremonial objects or Social Practice, please do.

I write these posts in a conversational tone and I'm always thrilled to hear from people.  Don't hesitate to comment below to continue the discussion. 

 a seat at the table, 39 x 26 x 21 inches  Yarn, upcycled grocery bags (stuffing), stool.    Continuing to abstract the feminine body as ceremonial object/fertility sculpture, this full figure has taken her seat at the table.  See more  here .

a seat at the table, 39 x 26 x 21 inches  Yarn, upcycled grocery bags (stuffing), stool.   
Continuing to abstract the feminine body as ceremonial object/fertility sculpture, this full figure has taken her seat at the table.  See more here.

 Visit my shop   Spiral Herbal Remedies .  I've created Organic Herbal Remedies for healthy bodies and minds.  All orders are accompanied by a unique, handmade talisman, made to order by me.  The talisman is a physical reminder to focus your intention on healing.  It can be carried on your person, worn or placed somewhere you will notice it during the day.

Visit my shop  Spiral Herbal Remedies.  I've created Organic Herbal Remedies for healthy bodies and minds.  All orders are accompanied by a unique, handmade talisman, made to order by me.  The talisman is a physical reminder to focus your intention on healing.  It can be carried on your person, worn or placed somewhere you will notice it during the day.

26. Healing and Love from Plants

Donna Troy ClearyComment

Introducing Spiral Herbal Remedies

Now available on this website in addition to my Etsy Shop 

spiral megalith.jpg

You've all been reading about how I've come to inhabit my family legacy as a Medicine Woman, Healer, Wise Woman, Herbalist - with roots that trace back to 15th century Ireland.  I'm now offering some of the herbal remedies that have transformed my health and life.
(If you haven't been reading along, check some of my previous posts below.)

Start Shopping

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 2.26.53 PM.png

What better gift than that of health and love.
Fight disease with Reishi Tincture Double Decoction (Left), which contains medicinal properties for your Immune System, Heart, Lungs and Liver. It contains Antiinflammatories, Antihistamines and more. Used by Chinese and Japanese Herbalists for over 4000 years, Reishi was once reserved for Emperors and is called The Mushroom of Immortality. I ethically harvested mature Reishi Mushrooms in a Pennsylvania forest and made this medicinal tincture.  Try it blended with Elderberry for a yummy flavor!

And how about a Love Potion?  Be a Love Warrior!  This intoxicating Wild Rose Water spray (Right) can be used as perfume or a room cleanser.  Made from Wild Rose Petals and a touch of lavender, it opens hearts and brings out your fierceness.

View other products »

$5 Shipping on everything!

For future reference, I have added a menu on my website with the same products.  So you can buy from the Etsy shop link above, or directly from this website.

25. Go inside, Go outside

Donna Troy ClearyComment

25. Go Inside, Go Outside

Perception - our ability to understand our lives and the world around us, has been on my mind.  I guess it's part of having lived for 57 years and extracting myself, to some degree, from the day to day chaos of working in a hospital, child rearing, grad school, etc. I'm on the other side.  It's not to say I'm not busy, often insanely busy, but the busy is my doing or at least it seems that way.  So I spend a lot of time thinking.  Or maybe I just give myself that time.  I've learned to question everything and one of the biggies is, "What is real?"

How much of our life is our own construct, framed by a series of decisions made consciously or unconsciously?  How much has to do with a legacy passed down generationally?  How much has been interrupted by events that, on the surface, seem completely random but with deeper investigation, seem consistent with patterns that were established long ago, long before we made our entrance on this planet?

And so we come to the subject of Spirituality.  It's a word that triggers a gut response for many.  It has associations with authoritarian and overbearing tendencies or some new age, West Coast, hippy vibe.  So I think it's important for me to define what I'm thinking about when I say Spiritual.  It's the idea that we are not autonomous, that we are part of something bigger, that we are not completely in control of all that happens around or to us.  As an adult, I've always considered myself spiritual.  I left the church at as a teenager and have since rejected a great deal of the ideas I was taught.  It has been a slow unpacking.  The creation story annoys me.  That a woman (Eve) is responsible for our fall from paradise, that woman grew out of a man's rib and is not an autonomous being, that woman and her relationship to the serpent (phallus) was evil, she is a temptress and cannot be trusted.  It was the church, after all, that accused female healers of "dealing with the devil" starting in the 13th century.  The healers had beliefs that didn't align with or follow the doctrine of the church.  They maintained a spiritual connection with the planet, the landscape, flora and fauna.  For such a crime, they were burned at the stake - as witches.  And what about love?  For whom?  Is it conditional?  Who decided that some were less, that some were "other", that some were unworthy, that some did not deserve agency or independence, that some were incapable of making informed decisions?  

As I've immersed myself in Herbalism over the last year, I've met a group of people who are deeply spiritual. Their spirituality stems from traditions that preceded "church", traditions that were preserved despite church, traditions that were passed forward generationally, in the home, around the table, in neighborhoods, amongst family and friends, under oppression, often beside but not completely separated from church.  These powerful woman have found strength in traditions that honor the feminine, along with their otherness.  

Getting to  know these women, I've become aware of the lack of my own traditions that acknowledge and honor the feminine and my ancestors.  I've written in this blog about my experiences in Ireland, where a series of coincidences and events sent my mind whirling. The spiritual traditions of my Irish ancestors were subsumed, shunned and replaced with Christianity/Catholicism and later under British, Protestant Colonizers.

I searched for and found clues to these traditions in the traces of an earlier culture, remnants that remain in Ireland - the Stone Alignments, Circles and Tombs that I visited.  In those spaces, I felt a strong connection to an energy in the air - on a bodily level.  The scale of the stones, greater than human but only by so much, felt both looming and comforting, familiar and foreign.  They were sited in a way that insisted on respect and awe, taking advantage of the spectacle of the landscape around them  - they were sited at the crest of a hill, in the center of a valley, along the shore of the Atlantic, marking the celestial bodies that aligned with them and the epicenter of a spiritual community.  The sites felt sacred even without ceremony and the stones still stand today, more than 5000 years after being laboriously lifted into unnaturally upright positions. 

Recently, I re-discovered the Sheela Na Gig.  Stone relief and sculptures, "figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva" with "the explicit gesture of opening the vulva" as if opening to the infinite, the possibility of creation, the cyclical nature of life, of death and rebirth.  While highlighting their feminine physiology, they also wear grimaces, a threatening countenance.  Some experts compare them to the "Cailleach, 'the old wise-woman healer, a multifaceted personification of the female cosmic agency' with deep roots in Irish mythology as simultaneously life-giving and nurturing as well as hostile and destructive."  They can be found, ironically, on 14th century Romanesque Churches throughout the island - over 200 of them.  They appear to be from an earlier period than the churches, pre-dating the stonework that surrounds them. Their form mimics fertility sculptures from other cultures - strong, powerful feminine deities.   

I've made a conscious decision to release myself from skepticism and my complete reliance on science as an explain for all phenomena.  Science is another belief system, full of its own flawed logic and doctrine.  It is, after all, under the guidance of human minds and we, by default are flawed.  I have a Bachelor of Science.  I worked as an RN in a major teaching hospital for 13 years and in Clinical Research (research on people) for 10 years.  A flawed scientific belief, for instance, is glaringly obvious regarding dietary recommendations.  All recommendations in the past have been based on "firm" scientific data but you might have noticed that they change every few years.  Much is an educated guess.  And much theory is built on those educated guesses and with some consistency, they are proven wrong.

Let it be said that some things leave no room for doubt in my mind- what is happening to this planet for instance and the effects of mankind on it.  Do not think I've dismissed everything that has been discovered since the Age of Enlightenment's insistence on "proof".  I'm saying that some things cannot or have not yet been proven - that's where belief plays a role.  Semantics - belief... spirituality... the unknown... proof.

In letting go of my need for proof, I have had uncanny experiences in ceremony with these women, I've felt myself exit my body while learning Reiki.  I've seen how belief, when placed alongside medicinal plants and fungi, can bring healing to mind and body.  (By the way, I've also seen how belief in science has also led to healing in a hospital setting and how it has failed many in that same setting.) 

The tricky part for me is finding what is authentic, my own history, a history that resonates with my DNA, my Irish ancestry and its spiritual legacy.  My ancestor's trip across the Atlantic, under oppression and duress, under the threat of death from starvation and disease, did more than separate my family from kin and powerful landscapes, it severed us from traditions.  Maybe it was our whiteness, our ability to blend in visually, to be seen as part of those who "belonged".  We didn't look like "other". Maybe that allowed us to assimilate and sever ties so deeply.  In the process, we gave up our roots, our knowledge of plant medicine, our ceremonies that linked us - through respect - to all beings that share this planet.

I've written in previous posts about Plant Intelligence. Specifically, an article by Michael Pollan, who shared fascinating research and insight about plants as sentient beings.  He brings scientific proof to what some cultures have always known ... or believed.  We diminish plants because they have a different relationship to time.  Their responses to stimuli are slower and more difficult to perceive. Therefore, in our eyes, they don't exist.  Indigenous cultures have consistently prioritized plants over humans/animals.  They see their resilience and intelligence, their willingness and ability to heal us. Those cultures recognized our interdependence and couch interactions with respect, reverence and gratitude - an entirely different philosophy our current culture that would rather dig up the planet in search for fossil fuel, strip forests bare or pour poisons into water and loam, than seek renewable, planet-sustaining solutions to our existence. These practices stem from an arrogance that our human needs come first, that our actions have no consequence, that mutualism and respect fall into the realm of the weak or less ambitious.  I believe It also comes from the loss of ceremonies that intentionally create connections between all that lives on this planet.

Part of my spiritual explorations have been through suggestion from my teacher,  Karen Rose, at Sacred Vibes Apothecary, who advised me to look deeper inside myself - Go Inside.  She suggested I start experimenting with Divination tools.   Remnants of my Catholic sensibilities still twitch a little when I admit this but as they say, the proof is in the pudding.  I started with Oracle cards.  When I asked the deck to tell me which goddess I would be working with, out of the 50 possibilities, from all over the globe - India, Native American cultures, South America, Africa, etc, I drew a Celtic Goddess.  And her advise?  Go Outside.  Be with the plants.  Coincidence, serendipty, sychronism, proof, scientificly-measurable data, fate, faith, spiritualism, call it what you want but it keeps happening and I'm paying attention.

I've been busy in the studio as well, creating fertility sculptures - stretching and elaborating their forms.  Again, fertility is not just about reproduction, it represents the possibility of life, renewal, death, regeneration, the cyclical nature of existence.  It recognizes and honors the necessity of both male and female energy, its union and cooperation.   Check out some of my new sculptures on my website.  

I also wanted to share some press from the exhibition that just ended in my Project Space.  Based around the need at times, to rage in the face of heartbreak and inequity.  MIS has been a joy to live with.  I extend great thanks to David Willis, who wrote this article for Medium Magazine.  And I'm thankful to Stephanie Maida for her insightful review for Guest of a Guest.  I also owe a lot of thanks to the artists who participated, Leah Dixon, Alison Kuo, Pik-Shuen Fung, Nadia Haji Omar, Junhee Mun, Barb Smith, Miryana TodorovaJulia Oldham, and Graciela Cassel.

And lastly, the exhibition Up-Root at Periphery Space in Providence, run by artist Babs Owen, comes down next week.  Many thanks to all who made this jewel happen, especially artist and co-curator Tiffany Smith who brought new artists into my orbit along with thoughtful and powerful feedback on the project's direction.  Other artists in the exhibition include Marilyn Narota, Star Montana, Tori Purcell, Dana Davenport, Heesun Shin, Stephanie Lindquist, Simone Couto, Kathie Halfin and Jean Carlos Rodea.





24. More Press but this time it's about me as the owner of 184 Project Space.

Donna Troy ClearyComment

For the full article, see this link.



What It's Like To Turn Your Apartment Into An Art Gallery


    by Stephanie Maida · November 1, 2017

    Imagine opening your door and immediately confronting a $3500 sculpture. There is a performance artist in your closet, a virtual reality mannequin in your bathroom, and two daring art films on loop inside your television. The idea certainly gives new meaning to the term "interior design."

    Such is life for Donna Cleary, the artist and curator behind 184 Project Space, a Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment turned live-in art gallery. According to the space's Facebook page, the goal is to "facilitate community amongst artists, curators, writers and collectors by staging exhibitions and events in a domestic setting. Through these exercises Donna explores Derrida's ideas surrounding Hospitality."

    And hospitable she is. Walking into the brightly-lit, modern, but cozy home during an artists' dinner celebrating the latest exhibition, I'm immediately welcomed by creatives of all ages serving up potluck dishes, chattering and laughing around the kitchen island. Donna introduces herself and seems genuinely happy to have a stranger in her space, happy to share an experience and introduce me to the people behind the works. On her website, Donna describes herself as a healer, interested in the practice of herbalism and the ceremonies, rituals, and belief systems that surround medicinal vehicles. With her soft-spoken and easy ability to bring people together, Donna can definitely bring peace of mind and relaxation to a room.

    For Donna, 184 began as a way to reconnect. "When I first graduated from my MFA program, I moved to Brooklyn and I didn’t know the space, I didn't know any of my neighbors, and I felt really disconnected from my classmates. So as a way to bring them back into my life, I decided to curate them into it. And then it occurred to me that I could do this more regularly, so it's evolved into a project that I do on average about three times a year."

    Since 2014, she has been helping artists to connect "in a place outside of the white cube, where they can have these intimate conversations and people actually want to talk to you about the arts." Within an art scene as notoriously fickle as New York's, the project feels inclusive in a refreshing way. Homey. But that's not to say there isn't some criteria

    "I need to be able to live with the art. So it can’t be something that has taken over the entire space. [There have been] really beautiful and unexpected responses. Like things in my shower, things hanging from the kitchen cabinets, I’ve had somebody performing in my closet. People in my bed as a performance," she says. 

    It's also a way to push creators out of their comfort zones. "It creates a space for the artists to do something outside of what they would normally do. So the challenge is that. How do you make something that somebody wants to live with, not putting it in storage? So that’s the objective."

    As romantic as that idea sounds, it's also extremely practical. After all, art is a business and in order to be lucrative, a work needs to be buyable. What better way to show collectors how a piece fits into their home?

    Mis, the inaugural exhibition at 184's new location, happens to highlight works by femme artists, however inadvertently. Though it is an interesting facet when looking at art through the lens of domesticity.

    This show, in particular, has Donna considering the pieces in new ways. "I have been to a show before where the art was really big and it took over the whole space and I had a reaction to it. Like a body reaction. So I was thinking the gestures here are a lot more subtle and it occurred to me that it was like the way I feel about old friends. They can exist in your peripheral thoughts, you think about them now and then, but they’re not screaming at you demanding your attention." Of course when they get your attention, you're once again reminded why you love them so much in the first place.

    Mis runs through November 9th at 184 Project Space. Viewings can be made by appointment here and here.


    23. Press for MIS !!!!

    Donna Troy ClearyComment

    I'm so excited about this write up by the brilliant David Willis for Medium Magazine.  Thank you!!!  To see the full article with photos, follow this link


    Dave Willis

    Founder of Willis Art Advisory, a bespoke firm providing corporate clients and private collectors with access to investment-grade contemporary art.

    Oct 27

    “MIS”: A Group Show Curated by Donna Cleary at 184 Project Space


    Julia Oldham, “Coyote Woman in the Cascades,” 2016, Archival Inkjet Print on Hahnemuhle German Etching, courtesy of the artist and 184 Project Space

    I had the pleasure of meeting Donna Cleary in 2013, when we collaborated with the artist Jesse McCloskey to curate a pop-up exhibition on The Bowery. The show was a success, and inspired by the experience, Donna decided to hold exhibitions in her own apartment the following year. She named the project after her apartment number in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and thus, 184 Project Space was born.

    Conceived as a means of building community by bringing together artists, curators, and collectors in a casual context, 184 Project Space has since held thirteen exhibitions over the past three years, serving as a valuable platform for artists and curators (my self included) to experiment with installing contemporary art in a domestic setting.

    Donna recently moved location to Bed Stuy, and to inaugurate her beautiful new sun-soaked apartment, she has curated a stunning group show of seven women artists working in diverse media, including video, sculpture, performance, installation, augmented reality, and painting (both analog and digital).

    The show is titled MIS, in reference to a character of the same name from Irish folklore who, bereaved at the loss of her father in battle, is metamorphosed by grief and rage into a fearsome creature with both feathers and fur. The title “MIS” carries associations with both the negative prefix “mis-” and the standard feminine appellation “Miss,”thereby highlighting the fierceness of this all-woman cast, emphasizing their power for transformation of—and through—art.

    The exhibition theme is addressed most literally through the work of Julia Oldham, who’s “Coyote Woman in the Cascades” (2016) hangs above the living room couch, depicting a woman in the woods, seemingly contorted in agony as she transforms into a coyote. The image is in fact a photographic self portrait, digitally collaged with an image of a coyote and then painstakingly “painted over” with a stylus on a computer, such that the hybridity of the wolf-woman is reflected in the hybridity of the art process. The bottom half of the image is intentionally left checkered like the ground upon which photos are manipulated in photoshop, a knowing wink to the growing pains of the artist living on the cusp of a new media revolution.

    A leading player in that revolution is the artist Jung Hee Mun, who’s site specific augmented reality installation, “I;therefore;Exist” humorously occupies the 184 Project Space bathroom. Invisible to the naked eye save for a few stickers pasted around the room, the installation is viewed through an android tablet, which when pointed at the stickers, uses image recognition technology to activate animated sequences.

    Most of the stickers depict “the mouth of truth,” a stone-faced fountain in Rome which is fabled to clamp down its jaw on the hand of anyone who tells a lie; when these fountain-faces trigger the software, they begin to spout water all over the place, and a strange woman appears, and begins to worship at the porcelain altar. Her skin is a textureless checkerboard, echoing the unfinished background in the Oldham print, and suggesting that this could be an avatar for any of us.

    Another sticker reads “This Is Not An Exit,” triggering thoughts of Sartre, as well as a sequence in which our protean every-woman rocks back and forth on the can, as if lamenting some tragic loss, or perhaps suffering from extreme constipation—which, in the context of creative expression and technological experimentation, might be read as a reluctance to let go of the old and embrace the new.

    The show makes use of the entire apartment, with work installed not only in the living room and bathroom, but in the bedroom, the closet, the hallway, and the balcony as well.

    Of these, my favorite work was the understated sculpture by Barb Smith, lovingly placed at the foot of the bed. Titled “Memory of a Tip Toe,” it traces foot prints in a folded piece of foam, which rather than reverting to its “natural” form, has instead been frozen in time through a chemical treatment devised by the artist. The sculpture appears porcelain at first glance, highlighting the poignant tensions between its soft appearance and its hard surface, or its hefty weight and its tender, yielding plinth.

    The presentation of the Barb Smith sculpture stands out, in that all of the other works in the show occupy the space of the apartment in a very natural way; an ephemeral painting on glass by the artist Nadia Haji Omar is inocuously installed on the bedroom mirror, and the Leah Dixon sculpture in the hallway looks so good in its spot that I almost wish it were a permanent installation.

    Such is the beauty of 184 Project Space, as well as other, equally exciting unconventional galleries across New York (such as Sophies Tree, an apartment gallery in midtown; Paradice Palace, which occupies a Bushwick basement; or Hotel Art, a freestanding shed converted into a micro-gallery in a Brooklyn backyard): they provide us with an chance to experience art in an intimate setting, enabling to us to put ourselves in the shoes of the collector.

    What’s more, the viewing experience is necessarily humanized by the setting, since viewings are by appointment only, making for a refreshing change from the often alienating experience of going to a large and impersonal art gallery.

    MIS runs through November 9th, 2017, and appointments can be made through the 184 Project Space facebook page.

    Go check it out; this is not a show to be MISsed 😉

    Participating Artists:

    Leah Dixon, Pik Shuen Fung, Graciela Cassel, Miryana Todorova, Alison Kuo, Nadia Haji Omar, Barb Smith, Julia Oldham, and Jung Hee Mun

    • Never miss a story from Dave Willis, when you sign up for Medium. Learn more

    22. Reishi for you too.

    Donna Troy ClearyComment

    If you haven't already read about my experiences with Reishi mushrooms, the mushroom of immortality, please read my previous posts.

    I've made batches of a tincture with the reishi I have been gathering.  I've also been using the mushroom medicinally since April.  The tincture is now available on my Etsy shop


    21. Recycling, returns and rrrr- NARS Open Studios. :)

    Donna Troy ClearyComment

    1. I've just completed my Level II Apprenticeship in Herbalism at  Sacred Vibes Apothecary. Thank you Karen Rose for your thoughtful interventions as my life continues to evolve.  I wrote the following to summarize my experience with Reishi -how it works its way into the forest just as it worked its way into me, merged.

    Reishi: recycler of energy, grounder, focuser of intention, transformer of dying body. You find life in tree, early populator, groundbreaker, chemical re-distributor, soil hugger, oxygen generator. Your kin collaborate beneath the surface, connecting roots in cycles of mutualism. Inspired, you choose sky and fly, carried on breeze, landing eventually, on bark-armor.
    You probe with miniature tentacle, lightly pressing on cell surface to move within and tap what lingers. That which no longer serves tree, you realign, place in other context, shift meaning, as growth. What might otherwise return to soil and linger, as memory, energy in shadow, deeply buried but potent still, you claim.
    Unfolding inner-self, new, in miles of overlapping fractals, you spread, softening, probing, gathering energy. Once filled, you push aside armor and present - in shiny red package. Fan-shaped, like that which draws attention to youthful eyes, moved briskly to shift air in cooling patterns. Brilliant, in light from newly opened canopy, where tree once shaded, giving over celluloid body to greater purpose.
    Deep in woods, you blend, noticed only by those with knowledge of your strength, those who seek healing, to transform bodies as you transformed tree into self.  Your warm light, discovered, reappears at edges of perception, glowing, distinct from noisy backdrop. Stretching, vulnerable, your still-woody interior, remnant of former life, anchors and holds aloft. Your flat, skyward-facing surface invites passing rain to linger and join in medicine making. Your pored under-belly expands with future generations, poised to fly. 
    Flown, you begin, again.

    I'm grateful to Reishi for presenting itself and joining me in my travels.

    2.  184 Project Space has extended its current exhibition MIS.  It will now be available for visits through November 9th.  

    3. I've been invited to return to MASS MoCA's Artist Residence!!!!!  Returning, in so many ways, feels like going home.  I spent 2 1/2 months there last year, which shifted my work in a profound way.  So grateful to be heading back.  Be sure to apply for the next cycle.  It is a magical place, in a stunning location, run by amazing people at a stellar museum. 

    4.  I've been asked to join NARS Open Studios, Saturday and Sunday, Oct 13-14.  201 46th St, Brooklyn, NY   I'm on the 2nd floor in studio 230.  Many thanks to Katya Grokhovsky for the recommendation and to Junho Lee for the invite!!  Come by to check out new sculptures and a new video in the giant studio they've given me!  

    That's all for now folks.  Enjoy the crisp days and vibrant colors of fall.

    20. MIS and MORE

    Donna Troy ClearyComment

    Generally, I like to start these newsletters with a story... but that comes after the first paragraphs.

    Patience grasshoppers...

     * First I'd like to remind you that The Secret Life Of Plants at Frieght and Volume - 97 Allen St, NY, NY closes on September 4th.  If you haven't seen this show, you are missing a gem. I'm honored to be sharing space with some of my art heroes. 

     * I'd also like to announce my inclusion in the exhibition Plant Cure at Central Booking  - 21 Ludlow St, NY, NY - in collaboration with The New York Center of Medicine.  Opening September 6th, 6-8pm,  


    184 Project Space christens its new space in Brooklyn, NY on Thursday September 14th with the exhibition MIS.  And now for the story... 

    An archetypal Wild Woman of Irish Myth, Mis was overcome by grief when she discovered the fallen body of her father after his attempt to invade Ireland. Filled with rage, she rose into the air and flew off to distant mountains where she sprouted both fur and feather - transformed into a formidable beast. In a state of madness, she traversed the landscape, leaving a wake of destruction and fear. The tale concludes with Mis transformed once more. This time by a being who embodied kindness and nourishment. Interactions with this being allowed Mis to returned to human form in a state of consciousness and self-reflection.

    In The Art of Enchantment, Sharon Blackie states, “Sometimes, madness seems like the only possible response to the insanity of the civilized world; sometimes, holding ourselves together is not an option, and the only way forwards is to allow ourselves to fall apart. As the story of Mis shows, madness can represent an extreme form of initiation, a trigger for profound transformation… [In Mis’s] brutal descent into darkness … all illusions are stripped away and old belief systems evaporate… [Only then can Mis] reclaim a more authentic sense of identity and belonging.”

    This Heroine’s Tale falls into the category of Monomyth, a term coined by Joseph Campbell who believed that Myths served cautionary and instructional purposes for ancient and contemporary cultures alike.

    In response to the current state of political unrest and cultural turmoil, artists in this exhibition herald the powerful processes of transformation. Barb Smith encapsulates these moments in fascinatingly mutable material, while Nadia Haji Omar converts a fixture of the home into a Foucaultian display of heterotrophic space. Graciela Cassel’s haunting video speaks of the inner workings of the mind and Miryana Todorova embeds ideas into undulating fabrics, allowing the landscape to act upon them. Jung Hee Mun uses real time computer mapping and object tracking technology to convert a room into a mind-altering reality, Pik-Shuen Fung shadows and participates in the bodily transformations of her grandmother, Leah Dixon follows information from statistic, to propaganda, to structure. Alison Kuo dedicates her creations to her recently deceased grandmother - a pioneer shape-shifter, while Julia Oldham's images embody the transient nature of humanity.

    184 Project Space was launched as a curatorial and social practice platform in 2014 by Donna Troy Cleary. We welcome curatorial proposals.

     Coyote Woman in the Cascades, photo collage and drawing, Julia Oldham, 2017

    Coyote Woman in the Cascades, photo collage and drawing, Julia Oldham, 2017

    19. The silence.

    Donna Troy ClearyComment

    The Silence


    What does it mean that the women in my family lose their memory as they age? This is something I’ve thought about a lot as my mother struggles with this problem, just as my grandmother did.

    An ex- boyfriend's mom was going through the same while we dated.  And I recently met another friend’s mother who’s experience echoes my mother’s.  These women are all about the same age and I was reminded of a discussion my ex and I had. He had a theory that our moms were losing their memory because they had lost their voice - in a culture that refused to hear them.  That is not to say that these women don't speak... they do... plenty... but are they heard?  

    I find myself frequently frustrated by this problem.  I'll say something but it isn't heard until a few seconds later when someone else repeats it.  Suddenly my idea is not mine.  Is it the tenor of my voice?  Is it that I doubt my words?  Is it a systemic problem, so deep in our subconscious that we women are unaware of it and at the same time, participate in it?

    I read this article yesterday.  It talks about the silencing of senior women in academia.  Instead of being sought out for advise or assistance, women of a certain status or age are silenced and marginalized. And not just by men. These things have happened to me.  A young woman in my building told me recently that everyone in the building thought I was "crazy" after I had chosen to expose a problem that involved her. It happened in grad school too. A deliberate undermining by some young women in my class...  Why? I was stepping outside of my boundaries?  Had too much to say?  Needed to be brought down a few pegs?  It was ironic in an academic setting, designed to help us find our voice and open our minds.  It was my teacher, a man, and the Chair of our program who recognized the pattern and brought it to my attention.  I was grateful for the wake-up call. 

    I worked as an RN for 13 years before having the opportunity to be a full-time mom, sort of, (I also ran several successful cottage industries and eventually found art while working at home).  But the kids were my primary focus and the center of my universe.  I managed everything.  I bought into the myth that I could do it all, be super woman but I always worried I wasn't doing enough.

    I made sure they felt loved and let them know that they were being watched, that someone knew where they were at all times. Yes, this is where the trouble started.  I was that helicopter mom. I feared I would miss something significant, that at a pivotal moment, looking the other way, something tragic would happen.  They would agree that I was a bit much and I was systematically shut out... "Mom!"  "Give me a break!"  "Can I have some money? :)) "  "Stay out of my business?"  "You don't know anything!"  

    Or something like that...  I said much the same to my mother.  It was a necessary part of becoming an individual.  The breaking of the bond that held us so close that I felt like they were part of my skin.  Everything that happened to them, good or bad, happened in my body. They had to shed me.  Or more accurately, chop me out... with sharp instruments. Layer by layer, they shattered and discarded my protective coating.  And the silence. NO!  You can't know what I think, how I feel, what I'm doing.

    It was traumatic.  I'm sure you've heard the saying ... Motherhood is the only job where, if you succeed, you are fired, become obsolete.  What happens to mom when the kids go off to college and never return to the nest?  Fortunately in the early 2000's, that wasn't a problem.  My fellow mom-friends and I had all gone to college before children.  This was a privileged position I found myself in. Each of us found work outside of the home.  

    For many in my mom's generation, working outside home did not happen, for a number of reasons.  What were their choices?  My mom had been a secretary before marrying.  She was literally and routinely chased around the desk by her boss. (Think Mad Men).  Sexual harassment was rampant, expected and tolerated.  Put up with it, or years of school were wasted and she would not have a job.  There was no going back to that kind of work and she didn't have to.  My dad made enough money and they continued their pursuit of a middle-class lifestyle. Both had grown up in Dorchester, an "Irish Slum" south of Boston, with no money, huge families, white skin and hope for an easier future. (I mention white skin in recognition that these transitions and choices weren't as easy, or even possible for some people of color.)  They experienced the American Dream of the 1960's - nice home, nice car, successful offspring, ordered lifestyle, everyone in their place. 

    These women stayed in the home, caring for their households and husbands. But they were frustrated. The 60's happened under their feet... and Women's Lib.  They were a generation wedged between tradition and shifting cultural expectations. A necessary critique of the domestic was underway and in its wake, those who occupied that space were now being diminished, by women as well.

    "If you don't use it, you lose it" is an adage I remember hearing from a Gerontologist I worked with.  The idea had to do with maintaining bodily functions and memory.  If you don't walk every day, your muscles deteriorate and then you can't walk.  If you don't continue to learn something new or stretch yourself with new ideas, your mental capacity diminishes.  We hear a lot about neuroplasticity in popular culture.  It's the brain's ability to develop new neural connections through work that challenges the mind.  

    But what happens if you are silenced, if your ideas aren't heard?

    My mother has railed against the silence the same way she fights memory loss. It makes her angry.  I have watched her struggle to express herself my entire life.  I can remember thinking for part of my life, that she had nothing important to say.  I dismissed her.  Her tears welled up when she spoke, especially when the words were significant. Her throat, constricted, made speaking near impossible.  She shut herself down, cut off her own voice, silenced.  I often do the same. It's brainwashing.  It comes from that diminishing that still lives in my body, despite years living outside of it, despite awareness.  My body "knows" that what I have to say is not important, even when my brain says "YES IT IS!"... it shuts me down.  

    In this lifetime, there will be men who talk over us, diminish us, men who refused to engage in the tough conversations or run away when they start but what responsibility do we bear as women? Will we hear the stories of our mothers, our elders, the sage, the wise woman?  Who will hear our stories?

    My mom recently told me that this is my life's work, figuring out the silence and the memory loss that accompanies it.  I would say it is the work of our generation. Or memory loss is our future.

    The art I make honors the domestic space and the wise women of my family. Studying herbalism has allowed me to retrieve the knowledge of my Irish ancestors- powerful women, enmeshed in the domestic and the community - the healer, shaman, wild woman, witch.  But herbalism is not just about medicine, it is about looking at the issues we face as individuals and as a culture.  Our bodies mirror our thoughts.  

    My hearing has started to go.  I have tinnitus, a ringing in my ears.  I don't listen to my mother enough. Perhaps it also comes from the tendency to silence myself.  Or maybe knowing that I am not heard. 

    I hope it's not too late.

     Mom in the middle, where she belongs.

    Mom in the middle, where she belongs.

    18. Come see my Reishi at Freight and Volume Gallery

    Donna Troy ClearyComment

    If you've been following my newsletters, you know I've been studying herbalism as a way to expand my understanding of Healing and the practices/belief systems that surround it.  Herbalism acknowledges the interdependence of plants and humans and our need to respect that relationship for healing/health.  I've written about it extensively in my blog. 

    I couldn't be happier to be included an exhibition that explores these ideas, opening this Saturday at Freight + Volume Gallery.  97 Allen St. New York, NY 10002

    I would love to see you at the opening!!

    The Secret Life of Plants

    Opening reception Saturday, July 8th, 7pm - 10pm
    July 8th – September 3rd, 2017

    Co-curated by Jennifer Coates and Nick Lawrence

    I'm honored to be amongst this amazing group of artists.  Eric Aho, David Baskin, Ross Bleckner, Erik den Breejen, Benjamin Butler, Maria Calandra, Hye Jin Chung, Donna Cleary, Jennifer Coates, Jared Deery, Alec Egan, Stephen Eichhorn, Daniel Heidkamp, Elizabeth Huey, David Humphrey, Peter Hutchinson, Vera lliatova, Samuel Jablon, George Jenne, Mi Ju, Olivia Kaufman-Rovira, Benjamin King, Emily Noelle Lambert, H. Peik Larsen, Meg Lipke, Sangram Majumdar, JJ Manford, Sean Martindale, Cristina de Miguel, Emilia Olsen, Rachel Portesi, Max Razdow, Alexis Rockman, Alexander Ross, Rachel Schmidhofer, Adrienne Elise Tarver, Russell Tyler, Phoebe Washburn, Neil Welliver, and Summer Wheat. 

    A limited edition, full-color, double-sided flipbook will be published to accompany the exhibition. 

     subversive medicine, Reishi I, II and III  After choosing to "walk with" Reishi as an herbalist, this mushroom has worked its way into my life and work.  Reishi is known as the Mushroom of Immortality and has been used in Chinese medicine for over 4000 years.  

    subversive medicine, Reishi I, II and III

    After choosing to "walk with" Reishi as an herbalist, this mushroom has worked its way into my life and work.  Reishi is known as the Mushroom of Immortality and has been used in Chinese medicine for over 4000 years.  

    17. Immortality and Fungus

    Donna Troy Cleary2 Comments

    When I think of fungus, generally speaking, I feel a bit nauseous.  I picture that slippery pink stuff that grows in my bathtub, the green powder that covered stored boxes in my basement or worse the black, toxic kind that has made headlines of late.
    Erase that from your mind and conjure the image of a shiny, red, fan-shaped fungus loaded with the stuff that makes you Immortal (sort of).  
    This is where studying herbalism and my time spent at Mildred's Lane conflate.  Artists navigate the spaces between the conscious and unconscious, finding connections and inspiration when we leave our minds open. The same applies to the practice of Herbalism.
    Part of my Herbalism training involves "walking with" one of the plants that provide medicine.  This means spending an extended period getting to know the herb, in my case a fungus, using its medicine and leaving myself open to whatever information presents itself.
    I had chosen to walk with Reishi the day before I left for Mildred's lane, the artist residency run by J Morgan Puett and Mark Dion. I was a late add to the mix of those teaching after expressing my interest in the session about Wasting and Wilding.  Morgan suggested I participate as a Contributing Guest Artist.  Of course I said yes but I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  
    I will say in summary, that my mind was officially blown.
    After a few emails with Athena Kokoronis, the bright, young artist and organizer of the session, I decided to make my workshop about herbalism and volunteered to assist in the tincturing workshop.  
    Arriving in the afternoon the first day, I roamed the property taking photo after photo of the plants I knew, drawing a map as I went so others could find them.  I planned to go back and mark them with the red yarn I brought for that purpose, making them easy to spot from a distance.
    About an hour after my walk, Athena arrived with a giant Reishi mushroom plucked from a nearby tree. When asked where she found it, the Fellows who accompanied her pointed broadly to the forest and said, "Somewhere over there."  It was late in the day.  It registered that I had chosen Reishi wisely, gaining affirmation in Athena's find but thought nothing further about it. 
    Reishi have been used in Chinese medicine for over 4000 years. They call it The Plant of Immortality for its cancer fighting, antioxidant-rich properties.  
    Reishi kept popping up in my consciousness.  I named a dog I fostered Reishi after deciding I couldn't call her the name she came with - Baby.  I reserve that name for boyfriends and children. Remembering that dogs only hear vowels, I made the switch to its sound-alike.  Dogs foster longevity as well, so it made sense. 
    I had also made a body of work after the Reishi Mushroom. Serendipity lead to a series of shapes that looked like shelf mushrooms. Raku firing added a surprising, iridescent, metal finish, completing the reference to this "magic" fungus.
    On day two of the residency, foraging was on the agenda.  My experience with herbs had included class discussions, internet searches for images and a walk through Prospect Park with my teacher, who pointed out the local plants we had studied. Many were familiar but some did not grow in the park. Being a visual learner, I knew that once I saw the plants in real life, they would permanently imprint on my brain.
    We explored the meadows and forests surrounding the compound. I can identify flowers but most plants had not reached that stage so their leggy green stems and leaves were pointed out by Nathaniel Witmore and Laura Silverman. Nathaniel had encyclopedic knowledge of everything growing on the property. Laura too and her keen eye caught anything he walked by with his brisk pace.  
    About a 1/2 hour in, we came upon a stump covered in Reishi.  Mouth agape, head spinning, I impulsively reached to take one, asking if it was ok. I was told I should leave it to finish growing. Its wide white edge indicated it was not mature.  I studied the fruiting bodies closely and hesitantly walked on.  My mind kept returning to the Reishi for the rest of the walk.
    At the end of the walk, tinctures were on the agenda and we congregated in the kitchen. Nathaniel walked in with a mound of Reishi so we could prepare a double decoction.  I talked about belief systems in healing, mentioning the mind/body connection. This is something ancient healing practices have known and science is now affirming. I also brought up the premise that we and the plants are part of a macrocosm that is this planet.  Respect for all that lives use to be a given. Traditionally we ask permission before taking from a plant, leaving an offering from ourselves in return. 
    Later, I was asked to tend the decoction. 6-8 weeks are needed to pull the medicine from the generous polypores.  My training involves giving recognition and thanks to the plant for its gift of healing.  Each time I shake the mixture, gratitude is expressed. The liquid has already turned a dark shade of amber.  
    You might find this article interesting.  Written by Michael Pollan, it outlines research conducted on Plant Intelligence. It reminds me of something my son, a Neurosurgical Resident, once told me when talking about mental illness. "What we now consider Psychiatry will soon be linked to a physical part of the brain."  It seems, it's just a matter of time until science catches up to what Indigenous cultures have known for thousands of years.
    Part of our time at the residency was spent in town and every time I drove out of Mildred's Lane, my eyes were glued to the forest. I was rewarded.  I managed to find 5 more trees and stumps growing the mushrooms, each time being careful not to take more than 1/3, a wildcrafting ethos that insures the mushrooms will spread their spore and find other hosts in the forest for future harvests..
    My last full day was particularly fortunate.  I found a still upright tree with foot-wide growths on it, taking only two of the twelve or so mushrooms this time, I had enough.  I gave the largest to Jan Mun, another of the Contributing Guest Artists.  She works with plant remediation as the social practice part of her art. I gave another to Kristyna and Marek Milde, other Contributing Artists working at the intersection of culture and the landscape.  

    Jan had brought bags of Reishi mycelium with her to Mildred's Lane. After hearing about my connection and calling me the Reishi whisperer, she asked if I would be interested in inoculating trees in the area. Yes please!  She also gave me Reishi plugs so I could grow reishi from a log at home.  I decided to split the plugs with Sacred Vibes Apothecary, where I study, so we can start a Reishi log in our medicinal garden. We'll also make medicine as a group with the Reishi I harvested.
    Jan and I found one more stump loaded with the mushrooms as we left on the final day. I had hoped to show her the upright tree, knowing it would fruit again next year but I didn't spot it.  Driving in the opposite direction, I suspect the width of my car blocked its location, down a slope, out of view. 
    My cache of medicine has been drying this week in my apartment. The smell is akin to rotting leaves in a damp forest. Hot and rainy weather forced me to keep the windows closed for days and I was overwhelmed - every breath loaded with their scent.  If I left and returned, I was struck by their potency. Over time, I came to love the earthy, decaying scent, recognizing its origin.  Reishi thrive on dying trees, converting their diminishing energy into the gift of immortality.