Reverend Joyce McDonald

Beauty in the Midst

Apr. 28–June 30, 2024

Gordon Robichaux is honored to present Beauty in the Midst, Reverend Joyce McDonald’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition comprises a group of new and early “testimonial sculptures,” some made nearly twenty-five years ago, displayed on pedestals and on the walls of the room. A self-taught, visionary, multidisciplinary artist, activist, and minister, McDonald fuses experience with strength, hope, and power.

McDonald works primarily in her home, forming her figurative works with air-dry clay or terracotta and uses her kitchen table and sink as supports, as well as improvised tools such as an electric nail file. She embellishes her sculptures with humble materials and found objects endowed with personal significance: pearls from her late mother’s necklace, nail polish, cheesecloth, glass beads, earrings, aluminum foil, and African textiles. Throughout, the tender sculptures enshrine McDonald’s own life stories and wider cultural experiences of family, love, loss, illness, healing, and transformation.

Install (14)

Reverend Joyce McDonald was born in 1951 in Brooklyn, New York, where she continues to live and work. As a teenager, she performed at the Apollo Theater in the girl group The Primettes. After her HIV diagnosis in 1985, and a long battle with addiction, McDonald was ordained as a minister at the Church of the Open Door in 2009. She uses her own struggles to drive her work as an artist, activist, advocate, and “spiritual nurse.” Through her art and ministry, McDonald shares her contagious joy and love and inspires women to get in touch with their inner beauty and dignity. She uses sculpture, painting, poetry, and song to help people find healing. Her work as an activist and advocate includes founding an HIV awareness and creative arts group for young girls and teens, working with women in shelters and hospitals, writing letters to incarcerated women, coordinating her church's AIDS ministry, and serving as assistant director of its children's choir. She is also an active artist-member of Visual AIDS. McDonald is the proud mother of two daughters and has two sons-in-law, eleven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

McDonald presented her first solo exhibition at Maureen Paley, London, in 2023, which was profiled in The Guardian, The Art Newspaper, and Artforum. She presented her first exhibition at Gordon Robichaux, New York, in 2021, and her work has been celebrated in The New York Times on two occasions. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions including in Hove, UK, at Maureen Paley: Morena di Luna; in Los Angeles at Marc Selwyn Gallery and Parker Gallery; in New York as part of the exhibitions Souls Grown Diaspora at apexart (organized by Sam Gordon), AIDS at Home (Art and Everyday Activism) at the Museum of the City of New York, Everyday at La Mama Galleria, PERSONS OF INTEREST at the Bureau of General Services–Queer Division (organized by Sam Gordon), Curated at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, and taken-up at Judson Memorial Church; and in New Jersey as part of HIV+WOMEN+ART at Puffin Foundation Gallery.

McDonald’s work is held in the collection of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.


Beauty in the Midst (A Family of Faith)

Glazed ceramic

13.5 x 10 x 1.5 inches


Peaceful Peace

Air dry clay, spray paint

8 x 6.5 x 3 inches

c. 2000

Beauty in the Midst (Trauma)

Glazed ceramic, oil, epoxy, found object

5 x 3 x 0.5 inches


Rooted in Strength

Terracotta and glass beads

11 x 9 x 4 inches

c. 2000

Snagged Out

Terracotta air dry clay, found objects, Mod Podge

6 x 5 x 2.5 inches

c. 2000

Beauty in the Midst (Delicate Beauty)

Glazed ceramic, oil, epoxy, costume pearl

10.5 x 11.5 x 1 inches


Millennium Woman

Air dry clay, acrylic, fabric, Wite-Out, Mod Podge

9.5 x 5.75 x 6.75 inches


Family of Hope

Air dry clay

9.5 x 6 x 3 inches


Protection of Love

Air dry clay, metallic paints

13.25 x 6.5 x 7.75 inches


Precious As A Pearl (Pearl Girl Collection)

2005, Air dry clay, wood, Mod Podge, costume pearls, mother’s broken pearl necklace

12 x 9.75 x 1 inches


The Bond

Glazed ceramic, adhesive, grout, acrylic paint, on found ceramic

6.5 x 7 x 8 inches


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