Helen O’Leary Named Joan Mitchell Center Artist-in-Residence

Helen O'Leary

Helen O’Leary, professor of art, has been selected as an artist-in-residence for the inaugural year of a new program at the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. O’Leary is one of twenty artists who will spend a residency of one to five months at the Center’s new campus this fall, engaged in the “transformative possibilities of a residency experience.”

Helen O’Leary was born in Ireland and attended the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently lives in Brooklyn and State College. She is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; Culturel Irlandias Fellowship, Paris; two Pollock-Krasner awards; the Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture; multiple grants from the Arts Council of Ireland and Culture Ireland, and research grants from the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State.

She has exhibited internationally, including solo shows at the MAC Belfast (scheduled for 2016); the National Gallery of Art in Limerick, Ireland; the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny, Ireland; the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin; Lesley Heller Gallery in New York; Sirius Art Centre in Cobh, Australia; the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago; and the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been exhibited widely in Europe and the United States, including select shows at the Fenderesky Gallery in Belfast, Northern Ireland; the Taylor Gallery in Dublin; the Glasgow Museum of Art in Scotland; South Bend Museum of Art, Indiana; the Galerie le Petit Port in Leiden, The Netherlands; the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art; Up Down Gallery in Kent, United Kingdom; and the Contemporary Arts Centre in Sydney. Selected residencies include the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New Orleans; Fundacion Irlandais in Paris; the Sanskriti Centre in New Dehli, India; the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Ireland; Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan, Ireland; and Sirius Art Centre, Cobh, Ireland.  “Delicate Negotiations,” an upcoming exhibition at Lesley Heller Gallery in New York, is scheduled for September 9 through October 18, 2015.

On being selected as one of the first artists-in-residence at the Joan Mitchell Center, O’Leary shared, “Joan Mitchell was a great influence on me as a younger artist. Her brilliance, tenacity and passion for painting acted as a lighthouse of sorts for me in the patriarchal field of painting. It is an honor to be a recipient of her foundation.”

O’Leary says her work comes “from memoir, stories of growing up on the farm in Wexford and my life now in the 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.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation was founded in 1993 and serves to “fulfill the ambitions of Joan Mitchell to aid and assist contemporary artists and to demonstrate that painting and sculpture are significant cultural necessities.” The Joan Mitchell Center campus is situated on approximately two acres in New Orleans’ historic Faubourg Tremé neighborhood.  For more information, visit