Grafitti Art, Pop Art? What is it?
Elizabeth Murray is recorded as being
part of the Neo-expressionist period.
I'm not sure I totally agree with
that as she seems to me a little
less easy to define.
Murray, set out to become an
illustrator in the late 50's. Her
mother had wanted to be a commercial
artist and encouraged Elizabeth toward
painting. Murray herself had little
inclination in the area of painting
in part for it's seemingly lack of
viability as a stable career.
Financial stability was something
Murray lost in her childhood when her
father became ill and left the family
without an income.
It was at the Art Institute of
Chicago that she became interested
in the works of Cezanne, Picasso,
de Kooning which prompted an expansion
of possibility beyond the realms of
illustration as a career path. Although,
the field of painting was dominantly
a male sphere Murray took the plunge not
from a "feminist" motive but from
inner awareness that was emerging
regarding visual experiences.
As with most artists the past
experience becomes part of the
current work. As noted above
there were some chaotic times in
childhood for Murray that perhaps
humor made easier to handle. She
is quoted as saying "The really
deep, awful stuff you just cover up."
and "The bad part is that the humor
can dissipate into sentimentality...
Everything is an exaggeration."
Throughout her career there are
implications of exaggeration in her
work, perhaps more profoundly in
the brightly colored highly graphic,
bold shaped paintings like "Bop" at
the top of this post.
Murray pushed the envelope of painting
often by teasing the line between sculpture
and painting with her shaped canvases.
She was non-traditional in her work and
took some harsh criticism over the
years, however continued to have a following
and high level of interest in what she
To me her art speaks to a vibrant child
inside working out the stories and
perhaps the pain. I'm reminded of
a quote by Picasso. "Every child
is an artist. The problem is how to
remain an artist once he grows up."
There's a levity and sophistication
to Elizabeth Murray's work. She
found a way to "remain an artist"
and connect universally to the
human spirit on some level. That
has no gender identification and
allowed Murray to "shape her own