Born in Massachusetts in 1943, Maureen Gaffney spent the first 13 years of her life on the East Coast with her Mother and five siblings. At the age of 13, Maureen’s family moved to Tucson, Arizona where two years later she left home and began her artistic journey. Being educated only through the 8th grade, Maureen was worried about how she would support herself at such a young age. She used her poise and good looks to her advantage and began a career in modeling. Success came quickly and she found herself sought after for pinups, tearoom and ramp modeling. Maureen was even sought out by world famous Andre De Dienas for his book, “Nudes, My Camera and I”.
Maureen’s fame within the modeling circles lead her to a reoccurring role on the Red Skelton Show, which she kept for four years, leaving in 1968. While being a regular on the show, Maureen’s movie career began to blossom. She landed roles in “Swinging Summer” with Raquel Welch, “Harlow” with Carol Lindley, and “Guide for a Married Man” directed by Gene Kelley and staring Sid Caesar and Wally Cox. In between movies, she returned to television, making appearances on the Perry Mason, Raymond Burr and Danny Kay shows.
Some think that Maureen’s natural progression into painting came from the need to master another craft. That is not the case. Her start as an artist began as an outlet from many years of poverty, heartbreak and a long bitter struggle for recognition as well as fame. Her pain translated into the beginning of a new love affair….one with art. With her new found passion, Maureen began her Renaissance glazing technique studies with Flovia (a world renowned painter). In 1978, Maureen moved from Los Angeles to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League under Thomas Fogerty and David Laffell where she learned the basic techniques of lighting and working with live models that laid the foundation for a lifelong career in painting. In 1983, Maureen received the Woman Artist of the Year Award from the International Beaux Arts Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the bonds of world peace and friendship by encouraging international creative activities. While in New York, her paintings were exhibited at the Bronx Museum, the Centre Art Gallery and at UNICEF.
In 1984, Maureen moved back to California where she opened her own art gallery in Palm Springs. It was there that she met and married her husband Stephen and together they began the journey to find her ancestral roots. In 1993, Maureen and Stephen traveled to her homeland of Ireland in search of her family’s history. After a fruitless trip 10 years earlier, this passage to Ireland was successful. Maureen found herself in Keadue (County Roscommon) where she knew her family originated. It was by the chance direction of a man in her hotel elevator that Maureen found herself in contact with the Trade Minister, Terry Leyden. With Terry’s help, Maureen was put in contact with Baby Welch who was a friend of the Gaffney Clan. Through Baby, Maureen was finally able to locate the original Gaffney Homestead, which was remarkably still standing. Maureen and Steve were both overwhelmed with emotion at the sight of the homestead and both agree that it was one of the most moving experiences of their lives.
Once Maureen returned to California, she had a new found passion for her homeland. Over 70 paintings resulted from this trip including paintings of the homestead, the surrounding countryside, the bogs, horses, castles and the Roscommon Racecourse. From exhibiting her work at the O’Carolan Harp & Traditional Music Festival to being featured in The Davis Gallery in Dublin and the Higgins Gallery in Belfast, Maureen loved to share her Irish inspired paintings with her countrymen.
While Maureen is still inspired by her Irish roots, she continues to broaden her collections through her travel within the United States and around the world. She is currently working on her latest anthology inspired from the magical grounds of the Barnsley Gardens just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Maureen currently resides in California with Stephen, her husband of 26 years. Maureen has been working on her next collection as well as her memoir, which should be completed later this year.