Subverting our notion of painting into an unconventional organization of formal and organic relationships, Helen O’Leary assembles elegant formulations of broken wood and stretched fiber into the gestural lyricism of reimagined sculptural paintings. O’Leary describes herself as a painter who tells stories from the archeology and ruins of deconstructed materials within her studio. Growing up in Ireland and relocating to the United States, her sculptural paintings become the memoir of two countries, an idiosyncratic aggregate of fragile gridded fragments. Her accumulation of stretchers, panels, frames, & linen are cut into small pieces, retaining staples, glue and any number of sundry material for re-assemblage into the unconventional enigmatic paintings on view. “Throughout my career, I have been constructing a very personal and idiomatic formal language based in simple materials and unglamorous gestures, a framework which functions as a kind of syntactical grid of shifting equivalences. The ‘paintings’ that emerge from this process know their family history, a narrative of greatness fallen on hard times”.
Helen O’Leary was born in County Wexford, Ireland, and received her BFA and MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 1991 she has been a Professor at the School of Visual Arts at Penn State University. O’Leary was recently awarded a John S. Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts, as well as the 2018–19 Rome Prize and Italian Fellowship from The American Academy in Rome. Additional awards include two Pollock-Krasner awards, and a Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture. Exhibitions include the National Gallery of Art, Limerick, Ireland; Glasgow Museum of Art, Glasgow, Scotland; The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia; and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY. Her work is represented in national and international collections. O’Leary lives and works in New Jersey and Ireland.