Discipline: Visual Art – painting

Helen O'Leary

Discipline: Visual Art – painting
Region: New Jersey
MacDowell fellowships: Fall 2016

Helen O’Leary grew up in rural Ireland in the 1960s through the 1980s. It was a life of survival, where industriousness and invention born of need were placed on equal footing with rich literature, music, language, and personal narrative.

"I work from memoir, stories of growing up on the farm in Wexford and my life now in the United States, short stories that I then fashion from the archaeology of my studio. I work the studio as my father worked the farm, with invention out of need, using my own displacement as fodder for meaning. I take things apart, forgetting conventions and reapply my own story to the form. I revel in the history of painting, its rules, its beauty, its techniques, but fold them back into the agricultural language I grew up with. I’m interested in the personal, my own story, and the history of storytelling."



Helen O'Leary worked in the Heinz studio.

The icehouse, built of fieldstone in 1914–1915, was a practical part of Mrs. MacDowell’s plan for a self-sufficient farm. Winter ice cut from a nearby pond was stored here for summer use on the property. Idle since 1940, it was a handsome but outdated farm building. In 1995, Mrs. Drue Heinz, a vice chairman of…

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