Mary J. Thornley was born in 1950 and grew up in Elkhart, IN, where she attended public school. She received her BA from Indiana University at South Bend in 1987, and her MFA from the University of Washington in 1990.
In 1992, Ms. Thornley received an Independent New Works Program grant to produce “The Enigma Unravelled: She was a Native Signer,” an exploration of the influence of Deaf culture on art, past and present.
In 1999 she participated in a group show titled ‘Works by Deaf Women’ in New York. She was artist-in-residence at Gallaudet University. In 2000 she was awarded the Powrie V Doctor Chair at Gallaudet University.
“Currently I begin a painting by laying some lines on stretched and gessoed canvas. Then I add forms with color and rotate the canvas. I do this repeatedly, losing and finding the image, building up the color in washes. I work primarily in charcoal and oils. I focus on deaf life or deaf experience, and the works are projections from these ruminations.”
My goal is to leave a body of work that says ‘Deaf artist’.”
“I think Deaf people have many motifs for their lives. I look for motifs and develop them. Most recently I have worked in ceramic sculpture making ear molds. I borrow ear molds Deaf people use and copy these forms in a larger size. Or I prepare an ear mold that is an ‘interpretation’.”