One of the things I like most about this blog is that I get to meet people I wouldn’t in my day-to-day life around Ardmore. Who has time to chitchat when you’re running to the grocery store to pick up dinner or dropping clothes off at the dry cleaners? I don’t, and this blog forces me to slow down and get to know my neighbors. And you know what? There are so many interesting people in this town!
One of these people is Deirdre Murphy, a local artist, teacher, and exhibition coordinator at Main Line Art Center, who works out of her home studio in Ardmore. She is an enthusiastic, friendly person I’ve met several times in the past few months, and I recently spent some time with her on a Saturday at her home.
Deirdre Murphy in her basement studio in Ardmore
Murphy moved to Ardmore with her husband, Scott White, who is also an artist, son, and daughter a year ago. She relocated from South Philadelphia, where she’d lived for eight years. According to Murphy, “it’s lovely to walk everywhere” in Ardmore, which is a big reason she loves this town, along with green yards and streets, clean neighborhoods, and interesting people and neighbors.
Her favorite day in town so far happened just a few weeks ago around Thanksgiving. Her family and a few other families had a “progressive dinner party,” where one house had appetizers, another had the turkey, and Murphy’s house had the sweets. They walked between the houses, and Murphy said, “it was the best…it created a sense of community [and] friendship.” Sounds like a great day, right?
Murphy’s artwork hanging in her studio
With an impressive resume—M.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, painting and drawing teacher at Penn, a long list of exhibitions and awards—Murphy creates dynamic, interesting art rooted in a common theme: birds. Birds show up in all her artwork, even though, as she said, “it wasn’t intentional; I’m not a bird watcher, I’m not a bird lady.” Birds for her are like a “character in a play that help convey a narrative.” She draws parallels from her own life as a mother and the birds in her art. As she explained, “I’m such a wanderer, and now I’m so rooted with children” that she becomes the bird: “I’m that character that can see things and experience things.”
One of the inspirations for her latest series of work was motherhood itself. “My work was starting to plateau around the time of [my daughter’s] birth,” she said. As a way of freeing up her artistic creativity, she moved to paper as her artistic medium to give herself more flexibility: she “wanted to have the willingness to risk more, and with paper being cheaper, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to waste like it would with canvas.”
Murphy’s artwork captures movement and perspective, something you feel as soon as you view one of her pieces. While birds have always been the most prominent feature of her work, there has been a recent change in her art’s focus: “I shifted from a single bird to the idea of migration, swarming, and chaos theory.”
You can see this in many of her recent creations—mixed media efforts using silk screen and acrylic painting methods—which explore “when [birds] migrate, when they flock, how a singular bird moves, and how the rest will follow.” This movement is something that Murphy calls “collective intellect,” which allows her to deal with ideas of density and openness in her work as she depicts the patterns of the birds’ movement. She frequently spends time at the Penn Veterinary Library to research birds to inform her art.
Murphy will be busy in the upcoming year. She will now be displaying her work at Gross McCleaf Gallery in Center City, where she will have a show in June 2013. She was also recently commissioned by Linwood Park to create a painting based on the tree botany in the park, which will be used for fundraising efforts. And in the spring, she will be painting on location at the Shipley School for its Secret Gardens Tour. All this while juggling family life, teaching, and getting out every now and then in Ardmore. Impressive!
Interested in learning more about Deirdre Murphy and her art? Visit her web site and keep an eye out for her around town. She has a portable French easel she takes to Linwood Park and other spots to paint early in the morning sometimes. Check her out today! I hope you enjoy her art as much as I did.