Donna Cleary
Class of 2014
Rooted 2014, metal frame, wood, wax, mushrooms, 62” x 48” x 36”
2014, metal frame, wood, wax, mushrooms, 62” x 48” x 36”
<p>I'm interested in folklore and pagan ceremony. My sculptures can be see asfetish objects and are drawn from my experience in the woods where I sensea change on a mental and physical level. Embedded in religions across theworld are trees that symbolize a link between "heaven" and earth - a conduitbetween our existence and an alternate state of being that allows us totranscend the every day.</p><p>Each sculpture contains a relic or artifact taken as a cast from the woods.These are made with ephemeral materials such as paper mache, wax orplaster. Sometimes, I use the casts themselves because of the bodylikequalities they posses and their ability to capture pieces of thewoods during the casting process. These relics are paired with products ofcontemporary life, either as detritus found on the streets of NYC or as massproduced consumer goods.</p><p>Tapping into my history as an RN and my knowledge of the human body aswell as my insights as a mother, I'm interested in Shaminism andam exploring the link between ceremony, the body and the preternatural.The mother figure is central to my familial experience. In a Pagan context,the woman's center of power stemmed from her generative and destructive powers as well as her involvment in shaping the next generationof human beings.</p><p>I'm interested in the idea of survival and how a life continues after it hasbeen turned upside down. The unknown after a loss can be crippling but mywork is about a steadfast determinism that prevails. I often work with trashand found objects because they were once a part of a whole that has beendisassembled and cast aside. They suggest potential, a moment thatexists between destruction and growth. Each fragment is a glimpse of astory that is waiting to be retold with a different ending. I want the objects to become something new, to reference their past, but to grow a new skin andcontext.</p><p>Frailty and strength coexist and the traditions of craft and sculpture aremixed with invention, creating fresh forms. Inspired by my own experiencesand observations, I want to transform materials into transcendentexperiences.</p>
Donna Cleary, class of 2014

The MFA Fine Arts program reflects the diversity of New York’s many art worlds. Together, the faculty and students form a community of established and emerging artists from many backgrounds who work across disciplines and modes of practice. Our main goals are to provide a stimulating and supportive environment in which students can thrive and develop as artists, to foster rigorous critical engagement with contemporary art and other cultural forms, and to produce an ongoing conversation, through work as much as through words, about what we make, how we make it and why.

The MFA Fine Arts program attracts ambitious emerging artists from many countries and backgrounds. In their commitment to art, and to one another, they provide a foundation for artistic growth that extends beyond graduation and forms an ongoing platform of professional support. 

MFA Fine Arts Stories

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  • SVA MFA Fine Arts faculty member Jasmine Wahi on her teaching philosophy.