Students and faculty alike gathered outside the ArtSpace in Building 4 to attend an artist’s reception for BHC Professor David Murray on Thursday, Aug. 28. The reception played host to a crowd of over 25 students, professors, and faculty members who showed up to view the different paintings by Professor Murray. The crowd enjoyed small refreshments while listening to a short explanation of his work by the artist, followed by an enthusiastic Q-and-A.
Professor Murray has been painting for over thirty years and the pieces that can be seen in the ArtSpace until Sept. 19 are just a small portion of his current body of work. His recent pieces, large oil paintings of various types of landscapes, are just part of a much larger body of work. This current collection contains enough paintings that the artist was able to fill two solo exhibits in two different locations simultaneously.
These dramatic landscapes that monopolize his current art haven’t always been suggestive of his specific art style. Professor Murray mentioned that throughout his education and career in the art world, he’s worked everywhere from complete abstraction to highly realistic. In fact, early in his education he emulated the works of his own professors rather than creating art for himself.
“When I started out as a student, I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I just started to doing things,” he explained. “All my instructors were working abstractly, so I started working abstractly too, thinking that this is just what you do.”
However, this route of emulated art changed drastically when he discovered “plein air” painting. He clarified that, although plein air does involve taking a canvas out to a specific location, it is not simply painting the scenery in front of oneself. Professor Murray stresses the reaction to these scenic landscapes and the need to include that reaction in the piece itself.
“Part of that plein air experience is that you go out and basically react to the environment. I’m not trying to copy it; I’m trying to react to how I feel about it. So when the ticks are biting or it’s too hot, it’s not a pretty picture.”
His love of environment, nature, and beautiful surroundings were perhaps inspired by his early life experiences. Growing up in northern Maine, Professor Murray reminisced on his love for the ability to disappear into nature at any instance. The BHC professor loved nature so much that he took a job as a wilderness guide for some time, which he looks back on fondly these days.
He also shared a story about his education in Texas. He described a beautiful landscape that he loved to visit as part of this educational system. The school he attended owned many acres of land and a team of 30 horses for the students to use at their leisure. However, after returning to the school one year, he found his beautiful landscape had been clear cut “in the worst possible way.” Oil spills and industrial trash replaced the serene landscape he expected to find.
This experience inspired a larger body of work that he describes as “angry.” He claims that this early work was sometimes too obvious, describing one piece that was a canvas featuring half delicate nature scene and half rubble, separated by an ominous bulldozer.
These days, however, he sees his work as an “answer to our times.” He claims that it’s easy to look around and see things that are wrong, so he aims to impress upon his audience a sense of hope and to create a work that is compelling. In his artist’s statement for the body of work featured in the ArtSpace, he says simply, “It is my hope that the viewer desires to visit, to drink the water, breathe the air, and connect.”