Thursday, January 14, 2016

Navigating a Life Through Painting

“Cézanne painted cups and saucers and apples,
and no one assumed he spent a lot of time in the kitchen.”

Elizabeth Murray

The American abstract artist Elizabeth Murray focused many of her colorful paintings on domestic objects, the ordinary objects of life, but with an edgy persona that reflected her struggle in the art world.

As her friend and fellow artist John Close told the New York Times “She has been far more important within the art world than she has been recognized to be in general. Part of that is basic sexism. It was much harder for her to get a certain sort of critical attention, and her work didn't go for as much money as the guys'."

A situation that Murray alluded to in an interview with Bomb Magazine’s Jessica Hagedorn stating “You have to be blind not to see that in the world we live in right now, basically men still run things. I hate to continually dump on the white man, but they’re responsible pretty much for our world view.”

Murray was introduced to color at nursery school. She was enthralled by her teacher covering a sheet of paper with a red crayon whilst being encouraged by her parents to draw.

As she tells to story “I drew when I was little. I loved to draw. Both my parents would say to me, you’re going to be an artist when you grow up… My father was a lawyer and came from a show business family. They were lower-class Irish people who came here as immigrants and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. But their values were not the traditional ones like you’ve got to get married… So when I got a scholarship to go to art school in Chicago, I went up there and thought I would be a commercial artist, like… like Norman Rockwell. See, I didn’t know about “fine art.” I knew Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and Picasso, but that felt like a whole other rarefied world. But then, the School at the Art Institute was in a museum. And I saw these paintings in the museum’s galleries and it blew me away. That’s what got me. I love to look at paintings. I would say next to making art, looking at it is the thing that gives me the most pleasure.”

But for Murray the doing is the name of the game.

About which she has said “It’s something about the immediacy of moving your hand with this paintbrush full of a color across this surface and watching what you’re doing change right in front of your eyes. You can see the world changing and you’re in control, or not in control, which is where the frustrating elements come in, especially for an adult. Kids just do it. They make their mark and it’s immediate, they’re not judging themselves constantly… Everything is an exaggeration. Nothing is ordinary. All that cultural stuff that you inherit from your family goes into your work.

And painting became Murray’s way of navigating her life.

As she has said “It’s the way I discovered when I was quite young of trying to find an equilibrium in the world, a place where I could balance out the different parts of myself. I think of art as a tool. It saved my life. It’s a way to escape. For a few minutes each day I can count on it, I can get out of myself and lose myself in my work. Most people can relate to that, when they’re doing something they really enjoy doing. And it helps you puzzle out the world, and all its contradictions, all the painful parts, all the hilarious parts. It’s soothing to me. And it’s the only time I feel I know what I am doing.

An exhibition of Murray’s paintings and drawings, Heart and Mind, is currently on show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music until the 15th of February.

No comments: