The Passing of Mary Kelly


We are saddened to report that our longtime ASWM advisory board member,  keynoter, and colleague Mary B. Kelly died in March of this year, at her beautiful home in Hilton Head, SC. Mary was a talented artist and teacher whose work on women’s textiles contributed greatly to our knowledge of goddess symbolism and folklore. Her books include a trilogy on goddess embroideries in Eurasia and the Mediterranean. She also led international tours related to women’s spiritual practice through ritual tapestries and cloths.


Mary earned a Master’s degree at Rhode Island School of Design and established the art program at Tompkins Cortland Community College in New York, where she was a professor for 25 years. She also participated in a teaching exchange with a university in Moscow, Russia. In addition to drawing and painting, Mary had a particular interest in textiles. At the same time, she showed her own artwork internationally in many galleries and museums.


She had major solo exhibitions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Generali Foundation in Vienna, Institute for Contemporary Art in London and her work was featured in exhibitions in the Whitney Museum in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Mary’s art can be found in the permanent collection of the Tate Gallery in the UK. She was most recently featured in Mary Kelly: Projects, 1973-2020 at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, UK.[16]


Wherever we are discussing goddess lore or sewing fabric art, Mary will be deeply missed. Her passion for goddess embroidery and the spiritual quality of textile-making has inspired a new generation of artists and scholars.

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