I was born in 1959 at West Point , NY. I am the eighth of eight daughters of Mary Jo and Jim Kelleher.
I grew up in Fort Bragg, NC and Fayettevlle, NC. Then I moved around to Colorado, Texas and California.
I ended up in Florida where I attended high school and college. I graduated The University of Florida in 1982 with a ba in philosophy.
After college I turned down a Peace Corps assignment and moved instead to New Orleans where I held a number of odd jobs: painter of houses, painter of fences, fry cook, secretary, typesetter, house mother to the mentally retarded, and social worker.
Throughout those years, I also did activist work with an Amnesty Int'l. case, the case of Gary Tyler (based out of Destrehan LA, about 20 miles up the MIssissippi River from New Orleans). I was trained to be an investigaor -- private, defense, fact -- and I focused on post-conviction habeas work, i.e., I work with attorneys who represent men on death row. I'm the person who goes out, years and years later, looking for new evidence and information about a homicide.
I never left New Orleans on an evacuation order prior to Katrina in 2005. In 2001, when one million-plus citizens left The Crescent City per the mayor's order, I hunkered down in my apartment, lit candles, ate nuts, and read David Leeming's biography of James Baldwin. That decision to not evacuate, but instead to stay put and read a book, was responsible for me becoming an artist. I emerged 36 hours later from my makeshift bunker with an idea for an art piece, an idea born in the words Baldwin wrote to his brother, Wilmer, about racism. I juxtaposed Baldwin's advice to his brother with a piece of advice my father had given to me. That idea became my piece, JAMES, and then the creative floodgate opened wide.
On 8.29.2005 I evacuated from New Orleans, about 15 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit.
Five days later I drove into Hoboken NJ and have been here ever since. I'm a Yankee returned home.
I have had no art training; I am self-taught.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
- - - - - - - - - - -
This is black art by a white artist. This art is the evolution of specifically "American" art, not least of all because the black/white dichotomy in American culture has proven to be a seemingly irreducible one. This work in part questions that immovable wall and silence.
It is important that this work was created by a "white" person, and more importantly that it could have been created by a "black" person. As a whole it pushes at the accepted boundaries of black and white because of this fact. While none of this work should be understood in the least as 'post-black', it implicitly forces us to think about the possibility of understanding white and/or black as verbs rather than nouns.
The two positions -- black and white -- are quintessentially American. More than the "amber waves of grain," this disparity defines this country's culture, then and now. Are black-ness and white-ness, respecting the heterogeneous contexts of both, not simply aspects of a common American culture?
This is one question the "black" art of a white artist asks the viewer. The answer is invaluable for the future of this country, to the future of each of us, black or white.
Kelleher's art bravely and with simple but unadorned elegance and power disowns none of "American" by affirming the secret shame of historical reality and thereby offers the gift of truly getting beyond it without forgetting it for those capable of understanding the catharsis that it represents.
rodney L. bickham
Spring 2012: yes, I'm still a working, licensed private investigator. I re-investigate the old, "cold" homicides -- where there is no DNA evidence to "rush in and save the day," but attorneys feel strongly that the man who has been in prison for a very long time is, in fact, innocent.
It is my job to go out and find the "fact" of the phrase ".....is, in fact, innocent."
I find new eyewitnesses to the murder, sometimes I find earwitnesses to the murder: both equally valuable and life-saving.
All this, my work, is added into the TEAM Pie of new law, old law, new facts, old facts, new mitigation info, old mitgation info... and we try to save another innocent. Lots of times we are successful !!! Yahooo! A great feeling.
criminal, fact, investigator:
I work with attorneys who represent men on death row. I'm the person who goes around, 15 years after the homicide, and knocks on doors, looking for ear- and eyewitnesses and everything else associated with the murder/s. What I do is turn over every proverbial rock that's out there, and keep on trucking.
I don't talk a lot about my work, but stuff seeps out via my art and my writing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
ANOTHER OFFICIAL ANGLE:
After graduating the University of Florida with a ("useless" she was told) degree in philosophy, and turning down a Peace Corps teaching assignment in Cameroun, Maureen Kelleher moved to New Orleans in 1982.
She held a number of odd jobs -- housemother to the mentally retarded, fence painter, fry cook, case worker, secretary, typesetter.
She bumped into the case of Gary Tyler in 1987 and got involved in community activism, 24/7 (www.freegarytyler.com).
She was trained to be a private investigator by one of the best criminal fact investigators in the country, (Gary Eldredge) and currently works as a capital habeas investigator with attorneys who represent men on USA death rows. She worked on the case of Curtis Kyles (exonerated off LA death row Feb '98) and John Thompson (exonerated off LA death row 5.9.03) and at the trial level has prevented a lot of innocent men from being shipped off to LA State Penitentiary.
She evacuated New Orleans fifteen hours before Katrina hit, drove north for three days, with a stop in Belzoni, Mississippi to figure out what to do next.
Ms. Kelleher currently lives in Hoboken NJ with her boyfriend. No plants, no pets, no children.
She continues to work as a criminal fact investigator, north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and is also a visual artist and writer.