Artist Deborah Kelly was born in Melbourne in 1962. She began making socially engaged artwork in 1983 and has exhibited across Australia and internationally.
Earlier in her career Kelly worked as a cartoonist; in 1985 she was represented in ‘The Heidelberg School Picnic’, the State Library of Victoria exhibition of the work of contemporary Australian cartoonists. In 1991 she participated in ‘Out of Line’ with Jane Cafarella, Trudy Clutterbok, Kaz Cooke , Bronwyn Halls, Judy Horacek , Kathleen McCann, Nicole McKinnon, Joan Rosser and Jo Waite . Her cartooning work was primarily made for print media rather than exhibition and was published extensively around Australia from 1981 to 1988.
The media through which she worked became increasingly varied after 1989. Her photomedia project Hey, hetero! (2001), created in collaboration with Tina Fiveash , has been displayed on bus shelters, billboards, screens, magazines, newspapers, and text books in Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, Glasgow, Berlin, Minneapolis and Claremont. Her 2009 work Tank Man Tango: a Tiananmen Memorial was a distributed dancing memorial for the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and was performed in over 20 cities and towns around the world.
At the 2008 Singapore Biennale, her work involved projections onto clouds over the city; this was a reiteration of her Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned work, Beware of the God , first shown in 2005. Her work for the Sydney Biennale in 2014 was a large collaborative collage work 'No Human being is Illegal’.
Kelly is a founding member of boat-people.org, a group of Sydney-based art and media workers who collaborate on public work about issues of race, history and borders.
Kelly also began creating gallery-based artworks in 1988 and continued this practice in parallel to her public work. Her solo shows since 2007 have featured collage, video and installation work.
Deborah Kelly sometimes curates in collaboration with people and institutions. Major curatorial projects include BORDERPANIC with Zina Kaye at Performance Space, Sydney, in 2002; Terra Nullius at Galerie ACC in Weimar and Halle 14 in Leipzig with Frank Motz in 2009; and SEXES at Carriageworks Sydney with Bec Dean and Jeff Khan in 2012.