Saturday, September 21, 2013

Local Art Seen: Robin Murphy and the Clay Show in Duluth

Gatherer by Barb Broadwell
Nine days ago I shared images from the Possession Show, which will be on display in the Morrison Gallery at the Depot till November 2, and Canvas of Flesh. This past Thursday the Duluth Art Institute (DAI) held the opening reception for its three current shows, which included Robin Murphy's New Work in the Steffl Gallery.

Robin Murphy lives in Bayfield, on the south shore of Lake Superior. This truly great lake inspires artists on all of its shores, from Thunder Bay down through Grand Marais to the tip here in the Twin Ports and on to points east in Wisconsin. Little hideaways like Cornucopia and Oulu and Madeline Island are rich with arts expression.

Murphy received her M.F.A. from the Cranbrook Academy of Art and has taught here at the University of Minnesota, Duluth among other places. Like much of our local talent, their work has a far great reach than simply this region.

Robin Murphy's New Work
Evidently the past few years have proven to be a time of transition for her. When I found her artist statement on her website, it seemed to make a good to introduce you to what her current work is about. You'll want to be sure to check it out. In person it's simply wonderful. Thank you, Robin, for sharing yourself here at the DAI.

The Explanation
My work has undergone major transitions the past two years, from functional ceramics to animal and figurative sculpture. I have always been interested in sculptural work but didn't know where to begin. It's difficult to try something new when you have achieved a certain level of success with your present artistic direction.

The initial animal pieces were simple silhouettes resting in pot-like forms and highly decorated. Once I decided to abandon the pot and just make the animals/figures, a new door opened artistically for me. Function and decoration were no longer the issue, it was now about the animals/figures and how they exist as objects in contemporary society; what are they doing, asking, implying. Those questions became the basis for investigation.

Perplexing Endeavors
Each piece presents a range of didactic possibilities. How the work exists sculpturally as a 3-dimensional piece is layered with the emotional response posture, gaze, surface treatment, etc., suggests. How to marry the particular animal or figurative form with this myriad of possibilities is the challenge. The reward begins at that extraordinary moment of recognition within the clay, whether intended or something surprisingly different, but you see it and work with it to completion; then, give it to the world and begin again.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it!

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