June Kelly Gallery

Debra Priestly Bio

Delightedly, the June Kelly Gallery opens its 2023-24 lineup with a mixed-media exhibition titled 2nd movement by Debra Priestly. Recent works mirroring the artist’s decades-long mapping of memory will open at 166 Mercer Street, on Friday, September 8.  The exhibition will remain on view through November 28.

Inspiration for Debra Priestly’s art comes from the materials of everyday life, more often than not those reflective of her personal existence.  Art writer Brittany Webb, Ph.D. writes, “Whether in painting, drawing, sculpture or installation, her work has created opportunities for close looking and thoughtful listening.  2nd movement reflects Priestly’s years spent considering genealogy, preservation, and the mapping of memory in an intentionally restricted color palette and deploying negative space that encourages a measured pace of viewing.

History is a structuring feature of Priestly's practice, and an institutional impulse appears at work behind the scenes in several of the series on view.  She deftly handles the tools of her family history, which include photographs with handwritten notes, teacups, canning jars, carefully collected china.  These objects meant to serve, preserve, or commemorate are repurposed in works from her mattoon series on view here, where the canning jar inspires the shapes of the surfaces that feature drawings of her elder relatives and prints which map areas where her family has lived.  Priestly is an excavator, a narrator, and the registrar of her own family archive, creating new uses for these containers now artfully holding this history on the walls.”

Webb further writes, “Drawings from the somewhere listening series mine twentieth century family photographs, with Priestly’s ancestors drawn on a white background.  The faces of named sitters are seen in graphite and charcoal, extracted from the visual context pictured in the original image (somewhere listening: McCoy and Veora Priestly, 2023 and somewhere listening: Nancy Veora Gray Priestly, 2020-2023) or emphasized with care amongst a group of redacted others (somewhere listening: Noah Hardiman, 2020-2023).  In making these larger works from tiny archival photos, Priestly expands the size and impact of these images and invites viewers to slow down, lean in, and luxuriate with her in quiet stillness.”

Priestly, a native of Springfield, Ohio, lives and works in New York City and Upstate New York.  She holds a BFA from The Ohio State University and an MFA from Pratt Institute. Her work has been shown in many one-person and group exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad.  Priestly is represented in the collections of Columbus Museum of Art, OH, Jundt Art Museum, Spokane, WA, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, The Albany Institute of History & Art, NY The Ohio State University, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Ariel Capital Management, AT&T, The Sandor Family Collection, the Francis J. Greenburger Collection, The Petrucci Family Foundation, Ashbury, NJ and other private collections.


Born Springfield, Ohio
Lives and Works in New York City

MFA, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
BFA, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Selected Solo Exhibitions
2023 2nd movement, essay by Brittany Webb, June Kelly Gallery, New York
Movements, Headstone Gallery, Saugerties, NY
2022 black, Jane Street Art Center, Saugerties, NY
2020 memory walking, 11 Jane Street Art Center, Saugerties, NY
small works, Shoebox Gallery, Jundt Art Center, Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington
2022 Debra Priestly: black, Jane St. Art Center, Saugerties, NY.
2014 tongues unspoken, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2012 cat’s cradle, John Davis Gallery, Hudson, NY
vestibule, John Davis Gallery, Hudson, NY
2007-08 passage: paintings and works on paper, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2007 Debra Priestly, curated by José Ruiz, Bronx River Art Center Inc., NY
Debra Priestly: passage: paintings and works on paper, June Kelly Gallery, New York
Debra Priestly, Bronx River Art Center Inc., NY
2006 Preserves, curated by Becket Logan, 7th Avenue and 2nd Street Photo Gallery, New York
2005 somewhere listening, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2003 The Persistence of Memory, Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY Old Westbury, Long Island,
Debra Priestly,
curated by Dr. Catherine Bernard, Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY College
  at Old Westbury, NY
2002 Debra Priestly, New Gallery, Hopkins Hall, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH;
Preserves, essay by Franklin Sirmans, June Kelly Gallery, New York; catalogue
1999 Lookin Glass, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1996 Caddisworm Chronicles, essay by Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1994 Patoka, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1990 Beaux Arts Collectors Gallery, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH
1989 The Print Studio, City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
1988 Cinque Gallery, New York
1987 Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH
Ollantay Center for the Arts, Jackson Heights, NY

Selected Group Exhibitions
2023 A Sense of Place: The New Hudson Valley River School with Peter Bradley,
  Colin Chase, David Hammons, and Debra Priestly, Burgers-Matthews House, Kingston,
   NY. Curated by Greer Smith, Sponsored by Transart
45 Rock Art Exhibition: A View from the Mountaintop, sponsored by Rockefeller Capital
  Management and New York Foundation for the Arts, Rockefeller Plaza
2022 Healing Through the Preservation of Our History and Our Selves: Works from the Petrucci
  Family Collection of African American Art, Ridderhof Martin & du Pont Galleries,
  University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA
2021 Creating Community, Cinque Gallery Artists, curated by Susan Stedman, The Phyliss
  Harriman Mason Gallery, The Art Students League of NY, New York
Inaugural Exhibition: Collecting Memories, West Strand Art Gallery, Kingston, NY
Landscape Re-Imagined, curated by Cynthia Carlson and Jean Feinberg, Claverack Free
  Library, Claverack, NY
Hermerica, Byrdcliffe Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, curated by Carrie Feder,
Woodstock, NY
2020-21 Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Space, curated by Jodi
  Throckmorton and Brittany Webb, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia,
The Golden Door, curated Robin Jaffee Frank, Silvermine Arts Center, New Canaan, CT
Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, curated by Susan Cross, Albany Institute
  of History & Art. AIHA Purchase Award. Stuyvesant Purchase Award
Celebrating 30 Years, Gallery Artists: Drawings and Photographs, June Kelly Gallery,
  New York
2019-20 Afrocosmologies: American Reflections, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford,
2019 An Essential Presence: The Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art,
  Allentown Art Museum, PA
International Sculpture Day, Cross Contemporary Art at J. J. Newberry Building, Saugerties,
Aestivus: Summer Show, Cross Contemporary Art at J.J. Newberry Building, Saugerties, NY
2018-19 The Persistence of History, curated by Peter Delman, New Jersey City University Galleries,
  Jersey City, NJ
The Haiku Box Project, curated by Melinda Stickney-Gibson, The Byrdcliffe Art Colony,
  Woodstock, NY
2018 International Sculpture Day, curated by Jen Dragon, Cross Contemporary Art, Saugerties, NY
Fire in the Belly, curated by Laura Gurton and Carole Kunsstadt, Burnette Gallery,
  Woodstock, NY
2017 30th Anniversary: Gallery Artists, Drawings and Photographs, June Kelly Gallery, New York
Hygge, Cross Contemporary Art, Saugerties, NY
Constructing Identity: Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, organized
  by Portland Art Museum, guest curated by Berrisford Boothe, Professor of Art, Lehigh
  University, Bethlehelm, PA
 the Visual Arts; catalog
the transphysics we knew about, curated by William Cordova, Prizm Art Fair Miami:2017
  Art Work: An Exhibition of Labor, curated by Jeanne Lamensdorf, Love Apple 2017
    Celebrating 30 Years, Gallery Artists: Drawings and Photographs, June Kelly Gallery, New York
  Constructing Identity: Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art
  organized by Portland Art Museum, guest curated by Berrisford Boothe, Professor of Art,
Lehigh University, Bethlehelm, PA
2014 Facing the Rising Sun, Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, New York
Ruckus, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, NY
Queens College Faculty Exhibition, Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, City
  University of New York
2013 Consumed: Nourishment and Indulgence, curated by Jacqueline S. Nathan. Fine Art
  Center Galleries, Bowling Green State University, OH; catalog
Meeting Past, curated by Bibiana Huang Mathesis, Akin Library & Museums, Pawling,
Flo Oy Wong: The Whole Pie, The Luggage Store, San Francisco, CA
2012 25th Anniversary Celebration, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2011-14 Infinite Mirror: Images of American Identity, curated by Blake Bradford, organized by Artrain,
  Inc and Brandywine Workshop. Traveling exhibition venues: Syracuse University Art
  Gallery, NY; University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, MD; Fort Wayne
  Museum of Art, IN and Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA;
2010 Knowing Forms, Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, New York, catalog
2009 Hidden Gems: Works on Paper, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2008-12 Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit, curated by Rickie Solinger, traveling exhibition venues:
  Bennington Museum, VT; Mead Museum, Amherst College, MA; College Gallery, Bowling
  Green University, OH and Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, CT; catalog
2008 From Taboo to Icon: Africanist Turnabout, curated by Sophie Sanders and Shervone Neckles,
  Ice Box Project Space, Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA; catalog
Beyond These Walls: Department of Art Biennial Alumni Exhibition, Hopkins Hall Gallery, The
  Ohio State University, Columbus
2005 Five Contemporary Voices in A New Space, curated by Bianca Dorsey of the June Kelly
  Gallery, Delta Arts Center, Winston-Salem; brochure
2004 A Universe of Art, organized by Corporate Art Directions, Credit Suisee First Boston, NY
Hearing Voices: Personal Narratives,
Bristol Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ
Hair: Untangling A S ocial H istory, Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N Y
2003 The Art of Containment, Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ
2002 One Thousand Words, curated by Leslie Umberger, John Michael Kohler Arts Center,
  Sheboygan, WI
2001 Cross-Pollination, curated by Susan Joyce and Mery Lynn McCorkle, Holland Tunnel
  Gallery, Brooklyn, NY and The Artoretum of Los Angeles County, Arcadia, CA
2000 The Act of Drawing: Meaning/Method/Meaning, curated by Cynthia Hawkins, Rush Arts
  Gallery, N Y
African-American Art @ t 2000, The Rockland Center for the Arts, West Nyack, NY
1999 Slave Routes: The Long Memory, Kenkeleba Gallery, New York
1998 Memory Walking, curated by Roma Potiki, City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand;
Massachusetts College of Art Faculty FA2D Exhibition, Boston Symphony Hall, MA
1998 National Invitational Works on Paper Exhibition, University of Hawai’i, Hilo; catalogue
Bridges From Brooklyn/Puentes a Brooklyn, Wilmer Jennings Gallery, New York
Black New York Artists of the 20th Century: Selections from the Schomburg Center Collections,
  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York
1997 Bridges From Brooklyn/de las Puentes De Brooklyn: The Other New York Stories of Hidden
  Identity and Memory
, The Fondo del Sol Visual Arts Center, Washington, DC
1996 Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists, Inaugural
  exhibition, curated by Dr. Jontyle Robinson, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art,
  Atlanta, GA; traveling exhibition; catalogue
A Walk in the Woods, curated by Karen Shaw, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY
Pensando Visualmente: Dibujos Y Libros Hechos A Mano Por Artistas Norteamericanos,
  organized by Dennis Leder and curated by Karen Shaw, Galería de Arte Plastica
  Contemporanea, Guatemala, Central America

Public and Corporate Collections
Columbus Museum of Art, OH
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, PA
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York
The Francis J. Greenburger Collection, New York
The Petrucci Family Foundation, Asbury, NJ
The Sandor Family Collection, Chicago, IL
The Atlanta Life Insurance Company, GA
Ariel Capital Management, Chicago, IL
AT&T, New York
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

2012 Celeste-Marie Bernier, Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination,
  University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville and London, pp. 351-356, 359 and 360
2008 Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, edited by Paula J. Giddings, Smith College,
  Northampton, MA, publisher, Indiana University Press, Vol. 8, No. 2, Cover Art &
  pp. 1& 184
Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit, Preface by Rickie Solinger, essay by Susan Strasser, pp. 10 &
2005 Lisa E. Farrington, Creating Their Own Image; The History Of African American Women Artists,
  Oxford University Press. pp. 293 & 294
Michael Cunningham & George Alexander, Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their
  Fabulous Hair
, Doubleday, pp.154 -157
2004 Hair: Untangling a Social History, curated by Penny Howell Jolly, The Tang Teaching
  Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore, pp. 71,108
2003 Brommer, Gerald F. and Kinne, Nancy F., “Exploring Paintings,” 2nd Edition, Davis
  Publications, Inc., Worchester, MA
Genshaft, Carole and others, Symphonic Poem, The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson,
  Columbus Museum of Art, Abrams Publishing, pp.48, 49
Gerald F. Brommer and Nancy K. Kinne, Exploring Painting, 2nd Edition, Davis
  Publications, Inc, Worchester, Massachusetts
2000 The Act of Drawing: Medium/Method/Meaning, essay by Cynthia Hawkins, Cedar Crest
  College, Allentown, PA
Craughwell, Thomas, Cow Parade New York 2000, Workman Publishing Company
1999 Brown, Deidre, “Initiative and Initiation: Memory Walking at the City Gallery,” Art New Zealand, No.90/Autumn
1997 Taha, Halima, “Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas,”Crown
  Publishers, Inc.
, New York
Jaime, Jonell, “Fresh Paint! New York Scene,” The International Review of African American
, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.3, 21-24,”
Burns, Khephra, “Reframing Black Art,” Essence Magazine, pp.105-6, July
1995 “Gumbo Ya Ya: Anthology of Contemporary African-American Women Artists,”
  introduction by Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, Midmarch Arts Press, New York
Painting Faculty, introduction by Robert Rindler, Dean, Cooper Union School of Art, New
  York, pp. 8, 56, 57, 77, 87

Debra Priestly Bio Debra Priestly

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