Artist Carole Murphy has been a major influence on PNWS. Over the years she has served on the Board as President, Vice President and Treasurer, and directed the PNWS Gallery. Patrick Gracewood, a long-time member and long-time friend of Carole Murphy conducted this interview. Carole was honored this past month as President Emeritus by the Board of PNWS.
PG: Carole, I’d like to learn about how your life has influenced your art and artmaking practice.What were early influences on your creativity?
CM: I think that people need to teach children to figure out who they admire most, what gifts they admire most. It might be an easier way to help them find their way. From a very early age I revered a farmer who was also a sculptor. He was a close family friend and I looked at him as if he was a god because of what he could create. Everything he touched was creative, from the fences he made to keep the animals out of his garden or the door handle he fashioned out of wood to fix the oven, to his art. I am still finding out how much influence he had on me. He and his children were some of the most creative people that I have ever known. His name was Tony Jurkiewicz.
PG: How have you come to understand your sculpture and its role in your life?
CM: My understanding of my art is that it follows my personal development. I notice doors that I’ve closed, not noticed, a staunchness in a way of thinking, or a righteousness that I have held. As soon I let go of them, I flow more easily and freely in my art. So many things I would not have thought of putting together in particular ways, I find I open to them. Sometimes it is the other way around. If I open to new creative things, I am freer in my thinking and in my heart. Sculpting is simply something that I do, it feeds me.
I came to the conclusion a number of years ago that it does not matter if anyone else knows my work or how powerful it is for me. It is just something that I do for my own personal growth and movement forward. I don’t do commissions; I only create what moves me. If it happens to move someone else, that is delightful, as it is wonderful to share art. But it is not necessary.
To quote Steven Jobs, you cannot connect the dots until afterwards. Working with children, raising my own as a single parent, building my own log cabin in the wilderness of Canada, running my own moving business, playing with real estate, running various other businesses, even directing the PNWS gallery and being on the board and president for so many years, all of these taught me more about what was possible and helped to heal me from a broken childhood. I listen to what I know to be true much more clearly. I have come to know how little I know, which I find to be a strength. I have also come to know how little really matters, most of it is a story in our minds. What really matters is loving. The rest is mostly noise. Art is my way of loving, loving the world, appreciation for its possibilities. It’s an alignment with the truth that is within us all.
PG: You work in a variety of media; do you feel differently about carving vs fabricating work?
Does the medium suggest the art or does what you want to say choose what you say it with?
CM: I keep expanding to different mediums and stretching their known uses. In doing so, I am offered the same by broadening my vision. Sometimes I begin a piece from something I saw in a dream. Or I drive by an object and catch something from the corner of my eye, then turn and realize it was only a trashcan. But the vision of what I saw was captured. Other times I just pick up pieces and start playing with them. I might start 6 to 8 pieces at a time and then hone it down to 1 or 4 as I continue working with them. Normally I have somewhere around 25 pieces going at a time in my studio, a good number of them I’ll finish. Some I take apart, using the pieces later in other works.
I can get lost in the detail of a particular aspect and make several of that artifact such as crocheted wire or the nature pieces to which I add paper clay. Then I’ll have quite a few of them to choose from when working on larger mixed media sculpture. So there are sculptures within the sculptures. Some are things I’ve created separately or found, an object or a bone I’ve sliced, or an encaustic I’ve created as a background. It all works and comes together, either for me or for my students.
PG: How do you hold making art vs teaching art?
CM: I’ve found over the years that my love of sculpture can be expressed as completely by supporting others to create something from their own vision. There is a saying that “Those that can’t create, teach.” My experience is, if teaching is done to truly work for another’s view of what is, it is as powerful and extraordinary as creating my own. I love doing both.
I can’t claim to know what it is I am trying to say many times until I am well into the sculpture, or I am finished and stand back and take a look. Art is not for the mind. It is up to the mind afterwards to make sense of it, if that is needed at all. Many times, it is just art for itself and needs no mind understanding or words.
PG: Can you say a little more about working with your students?
CM: When students begin taking my classes, I have them sign up for 6 to 8 weeks. Even though the classes are ongoing and people can pay by the week, paying ahead is a down payment on their own art. I tell them that when students first begin, the possibilities are so great, the creative door opens so widely that they are truly vulnerable. There is a part of them that will try to close up, to stay away from classes so they can hide from the fear that arises and remain closed to it, as it is more comfortable. I warn them that they will have a million excuses not to come again, even if they are passionate about it. I tell them that it happens to me too, if I have been away from my art for a while, but I am accustomed to the tricks and I simply tell myself I don’t have to make anything, but I do have to spend a certain number of hours in the studio doing whatever. It isn’t long before I find a piece or two to just play with and on I go. The commitment to the process makes the magic happen.
PG: Thank you, Carole, for taking the time to talk with me. I appreciate your perspective on creativity,
vulnerability, and process. I think many members will relate to that.