Shirley Aley Campbell was born in Cleveland. Campbell began her career as a figurative expressionist in the 1940s but eventually transitioned totally to abstraction.
Her paintings explore a variety of people – her subjects range from strippers to celebrities, prostitutes, politicians, bullfighters, burlesque queens, alcoholics, and motorcyclists, to name a few. Campbell uses several different mediums, including chalk, charcoal, pen, and ink. She won the Agnes Gund Scholarship in 1947 at the Cleveland Institute of Art and when on to study in New York at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute. After graduating, Campbell studied privately with Emmy Zweybruck in Estes Park, Colorado. Back in Cleveland, she won first prize three years in a row at the May Show held at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In 1986, she was a recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize. Campbell taught life drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cooper School of Art, and Cuyahoga Community College. Her work has been added to the collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Kansas City Museum of Art, the UCLA Collection, and many more museums and private collections.
Campbell died on August 13, 2018.