Marilyn Murphy’s ‘Realism Subverted’ opens Jan. 19

Marilyn Murphy, "Oasis," 2009. Oil on canvas (courtesy the artist)
Marilyn Murphy, “Oasis,” 2009. Oil on canvas (courtesy the artist)

In honor of Professor of Art Marilyn Murphy, who will retire in 2017 after 37 years of teaching in Vanderbilt’s Department of Art, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery presents Marilyn Murphy—Realism Subverted beginning Thursday, Jan. 19.

The exhibition opens Jan. 19 with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., including an artist’s talk at 5:30 p.m. The reception and exhibition are free and open to the public. The exhibition will be on view through March 3. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Ave. S., on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Marilyn Murphy—Realism Subverted features paintings and drawings in which reality is turned upside down in dreamlike scenes, with gravity-defying objects and figures diligently focused on a task. These figures’ earnest stances belie what is always, in fact, a very strange object of study. Murphy finds inspiration for her subjects in the popular culture of the 1940s and ’50s, presenting them with an attention to light and shadow that creates a sense of mystery and often incorporates dramatic effects from forces of nature—a sign of her youth on the Great Plains.

“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,” Murphy said.

“In her deftly rendered drawings and detailed paintings, Murphy raises a curtain to a world that is quietly subversive and in many instances layered with humor,” said Joseph Mella, director of the Fine Arts Gallery. He describes these worlds, in which “huge shifts in scale … contribute to a sense that we have stumbled into an alternate reality.”

Murphy’s artwork has been shown 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, the 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 Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Adler and Co. in San Francisco, Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, and Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina.

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 Vanderbilt University 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.