Marilyn Murphy’s Exhibition Opens January 19 in Fine Arts Gallery with a Surreal Twist on Reality

marilynmurphyin-the-cloudsIn honor of Department of Art professor and artist Marilyn Murphy, who retires this year after 37 years of teaching, the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery will feature many of her oil paintings and drawings in an exhibition entitled Marilyn Murphy—Realism Subverted. The opening reception is Thursday, January 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm in the atrium of Cohen Hall, featuring the artist’s talk at 5:30 pm in Cohen 203.

“Marilyn Murphy likes to play with perception and the act of seeing,” writes Joseph Mella, director of the Fine Arts Gallery. “Rooted in an artistic tradition that has continued to mine the popular culture of cold war America, her aesthetic is largely informed by surrealism, but not limited to it. In her deftly rendered drawings and detailed paintings, Murphy raises the curtain on a world that is quietly subversive and, in many instances, layered with humor.”

Murphy finds inspiration for her subjects in the popular culture of the 1940s and 1950s, presenting them with an attention to light and shadow that creates a sense of mystery and often incorporating dramatic effects from forces of nature—a sign of her years growing up on the Great Plains. She writes that “while occasionally my art has a political element, many of the pieces in this series comment upon the act of seeing, the creative process or some aspect of human experience.”

Her artwork has appeared in more than 380 exhibitions nationally and abroad, and her pieces are in several public and private collections, including the Kemper Collection, the Boston Museum School, Siena Art Institute in Siena, Italy, and the Oklahoma Museum of Art. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville mounted a mid-career survey of her work in 2004, and she participated in a two-person exhibition at the Huntsville Museum of Art with Bob Trotman. She is represented by the Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Adler and Co. in San Francisco, Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, and Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville, NC.


A fully illustrated catalog with an introductory essay by Peter Frank, an American art critic, curator, and poet, will be available in the gallery. Marilyn Murphy—Realism Subverted. is organized by the Fine Arts Gallery and is supported, in part, by the Department of Art, with additional support provided by the College of Arts and Science and the Ewers Gift for Fine Art.

On view through March 3, the exhibit is free and open to the public. The Fine Arts Gallery is housed on the second floor of Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Avenue South, on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 11 am to 4 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm.

Marilyn Murphy. In the Clouds, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2016.
Marilyn Murphy. Cane Fire, graphite on paper, 19 x 25 inches, 1989.

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