Born in Country Wexford, Ireland, O’Leary’s work delves into her training as a painter, often focusing on the studio as a site for subject matter. . Her paintings hold a history of their past lives—her panels fashioned from pieces of previous paintings, cloth, and other materials at hand in the studio—and draw deeply on the Irish musical tradition of Sean Nos, (in the old style), a form of cultural and personal lament usually sung by an aging singular voice. These narratives become woven together, just as the materials have, to create non-representational three-dimensional pieces that are finished with a delicate coat of egg tempera and resonate as paintings, and as objects, that hold a story beyond what is immediately visible.
O’ Leary attended the National College of Art and Design, Dublin before receiving her BFA (1987) and MFA (1989) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been honored with the American Academy in Rome’s 2018-19 Rome Prize, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2010); two Pollock-Krasner awards (1989, 1996); the Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture (1999); Skowhegan School of painting and sculpture residency; several grants from the Arts Council of Ireland; residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan, Ireland, the Fundacion Valparaiso in Almeria, Spain; the Culturel Irlandaise Fellowship, Cill Rialaig, Ireland, Golden Artist Residency, MacDowell fellowship and most recently Yaddo Fellowship. She has participated in Solo and invitational exhibitions internationally, including at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY; The MAC Belfast; National Gallery of Art in Limerick, Ireland; the Glasgow Museum of Art in Scotland; Lesley Heller Gallery, NY; the Galerie le Petit Port in Leiden, The Netherlands; the Contemporary Arts Centre in Sydney, Australia; The Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago; the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia; the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin; and Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast. She currently lives in Jersey City NJ and Leitrim, Ireland.
O'Leary's work from the 2017-2018 series, Home is a Foreign Country will be presented at studio e.