Marilyn Murphy


My drawings typically include one or two figures involved in an improbable action or working at some curious task. 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. 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. 


Film Noir as well as magazines from the 1940’s and early 1950’s often inspire my work. Growing up on the Great Plains, I often include the action of the wind and clouds 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.  


“There is a particular logic inherent in Murphy’s conjunction, one based on visual punning and the slightly too bright, almost halated quality of her tonalities. If this is dreaming, it is lucid dreaming, a knowing exploitation of the dream state by Murphy to provide her and us, with images and sensations of improbable freedom and thrilling or hilarious juxtaposition.”


–Peter Frank, Curator/Art Critic, Los Angeles


Marilyn Murphy is an artist and a Professor of Art at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her oil paintings and drawings create curious situations implying a larger story that often explore dualities both formally and conceptually (safety and danger, peace and turmoil, fire and water). Her work has been shown in more than 390 exhibitions nationally and abroad. She has had a mid-career survey at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts as well as a two-person exhibition of her work at the Huntsville Museum of Art with Bob Trotman. Both the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, TN and the Morris Museum in Augusta, GA will have solo shows of her paintings and drawings this year.  Her work is represented by Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Adler and Co. in San Francisco and Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago.