Kerry Downey (b.1979, Ft. Lauderdale) is a genderqueer artist and educator based in New York. Downey’s interdisciplinary practice explores embodied forms of resistance and transformation. They use experimental strategies to draw connections between interior worlds and sociopolitical landscapes. Downey's lifelong experiences in queer and artist collectives, their work with people with dementia and other disabilities, and the close overlaps between their art practice and teaching, have all utilized art as a strategy for engagement and care. Downey's work has been exhibited at the Bureau of General Services-Queer Division (New York, NY); Queens Museum (Flushing, NY); Bard CCS / Hessel Museum (Annandale, NY); Danspace Project (New York, NY); Knockdown Center (Maspeth, NY); Kate Werble (New York, NY); Cooper Cole (Toronto, CA); CAVE (Detroit, MI); and Taylor Macklin (Zurich, CH). Downey’s first major publication, We collect together in a net, was published by Wendy’s Subway in 2019. They are a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Grant and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant. Artist-in-residencies include Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Madison, ME; Triangle Arts Association, Brooklyn, NY; SHIFT at EFA Project Space, New York, NY; the Drawing Center’s Open Sessions, New York, NY; and the Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT. Downey participated in the Queer|Art|Mentorship program in 2013 (paired with Angela Dufresne). Their work has been in Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Washington Post. Downey holds a BA from Bard College and an MFA from Hunter College. Downey spent over a decade running community-based arts programs at The Museum of Modern Art; they have recently taught at Rhode Island School of Design, Parsons/The New School, City College, and at Hunter College. In 2022-24 they will be a visiting critic/artist in the Art Department at Williams College.
Downey's work tends to illuminate the correspondences between private emotion and political consciousness. It often presents irrecoverable experiences, unreliable memories, partial accounts and disorganized information – archives, systems and narrators that resist delivering facts or claims of knowledge. What replaces order is obsession. I often think about their work in relation to Georges Bataille, who saw entropy, waste, failure – the non-productive expenditure of effort and desire – as forms of resistance and agency, a defiance of the values of property and conformity. The antonym of “waste” is “hoard” or “save,” but obsession erases that opposition.
--Rachel Baum PhD