Marilyn Murphy’s “Short Stories” Exhibit Featured at Customs House Museum Through April 30

Marilyn Murphy is an artist whose drawings and oil paintings create curious situations implying a larger story that often explores dualities both formally and conceptually (safety and danger, peace and turmoil, fire and water). A professor of art at Vanderbilt, Murphy is currently featured in the Orgain and Bruner Galleries of Clarksville’s Customs House Museum in the exhibition Short Stories: twenty-six graphite works that combine futuristic elements with a sense of nostalgia. Murphy’s sense of humor is evident in these illustrative happenings through mergings of Southern culture and B-movie sci-fi.

The artist says of her work: “My drawings in graphite or colored pencil typically include one or two figures involved in an improbable action or working at some curious task. Many of the pieces in this series comment upon the act of seeing, the creative process or some aspect of human experience. Strong lighting and shadows create a sense of mystery while the identities of the men and women are obscured in order to direct the focus of the viewer toward their activity.”

Recently she had solo exhibitions at the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, and the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery. In 2004, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts had a mid-career survey of her paintings, drawings and prints. Her work has been shown in more than 300 exhibitions nationally and abroad, and she has curated more than 30 exhibitions. Her work is in many public and private collections, including the Kemper Collection, Huntsville Museum of Art, the Boston Museum School, and the Prudential and Bridgestone Collections.

“Magazines from the 1940s and early 1950s often inspire the images I create,” explains Murphy. “Growing up on the Great Plains, I often include the action of the wind in my work. Often the objects are beyond reach or curiously out of human scale to create a dreamlike atmosphere where the objects can be read as symbolic or actual.”

Murphy’s artwork will be on view Tuesdays-Sundays through April 30 at the Customs House Museum located at the corner of South Second and Commerce Streets in Clarksville. For information on this exhibition, contact Terri Jordan, exhibits curator, at

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