Monday, 31 August 2015

Mary Duffy (b. 1961): Art and Disability

As a volunteer for the Queer Project at Leeds Art Gallery, I worked on different artists and had to write short biographies to give to the group's participants. The main focus of the group was about queer visual culture, more info here, among the different subjects we talked about I was fascinated by disability studies and the differences between the medical and social model of disability. On one side, the medical model is defined  on what someone can or cannot do. On the other side, the social model is a form of liberation and sees disability as a social construction and was first developed by disabled people. 
For this session I worked on the Irish artist, Mary Duffy, who has no arms and is actively engaged in disability art.

"I paint with my eyes and my heart" Mary Duffy 

Self Portrait by Mary Duffy (2008) (credits: Mary Duffy

Mary Duffy was born in 1961 in Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland. She went to art school then to university before qualifying as a teacher. She also studied for a Master's degree in Equalities Studies and received an honorary doctorate of Laws by the National University of Ireland in recognition of her work for disability art. 

Mary Duffy Artist by Paul Sherwood

As well as teaching jobs in schools and art colleges, she has worked as an artists-in-residence in prisons but also an actress, a radio producer, researcher and documentary director for RTE. She is also a poet. She is really engaged with different civil rights movements and has created an equality training project for the E.U.

Untitled by Mary Duffy from Stories of a Body series (1990) (credits: Mary Duffy)

Her works as a performance artist revolves around her child memories, as en object used and commented on by doctors. She translated in her work the struggle for disabled people to become independent and a valued member of society. She using different media, paintings and performances. Her first solo exhibition took place at the Bold Gallery, Galway (Ireland).  

A more detailed account of her awards and work here.

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