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Elizabeth Murray in "Humor"

In her studio, Elizabeth Murray is painting a shaped, colorful canvas with inflated, bulbous forms. “I want there to be conflict and I want there to be tension. And yet somehow I want to make these very conflicting things live together, and not just butt up against each other.”

Murray has spent a lifetime developing her particular vision of zany and vibrant images, beginning with her time as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago where she was surrounded by great works of art such as the Abstract Expressionist paintings by DeKooning. “I just realized this was going to be my life,” says Murray.

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Elizabeth Murray

A pioneer in painting, Elizabeth Murray’s distinctively shaped canvases break with the art-historical tradition of illusionistic space in two-dimensions. Jutting out from the wall and sculptural in form, Murray’s paintings and watercolors playfully blur the line between the painting as an object and the painting as a space for depicting objects. Breathing life into domestic subject matter, Murray’s paintings often include images of cups, drawers, utensils, chairs, and tables. These familiar objects are matched with cartoonish fingers and floating eyeballs—macabre images that are as nightmarish as they are goofy. Taken as a whole, Murray’s paintings are abstract compositions rendered in bold colors and multiple layers of paint, but the details of the paintings reveal a fascination with dream states and the psychological underbelly of domestic life.

“I want there to be conflict and I want there to be tension.

And yet somehow I want to make these very conflicting things live together, and not just butt up against each other.”

Elizabeth Murray

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