Elizabeth Murray, 1940-2007



Elizabeth Murray in 1998 with one of her New York subway murals, at the 59th Street and Lexington Avenue station in Manhattan. G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times


This is my favorite paragraph of her obituary, written by Roberta Smith, in the New York Times:

Born in Chicago in 1940, Ms. Murray had a hardscrabble childhood that included bouts of homelessness caused in part by the ill health of her father. Ms. Murray traced her interest in art to watching a nursery-school teacher cover a sheet of paper with thick red crayon, an experience that she said gave her an indelible sense of the physicality of color. She drew constantly from an early age, inspired mostly by newspaper comic strips, and once sent a sketchbook to Walt Disney asking for a job as his secretary. By the fifth grade she was selling erotic drawings to classmates for a quarter.


Yes, it seems that she, like her work, was completely alive.

You can't really say you look at Elizabeth Murray's work. It is more like you 'watch' it, and even listen to it. Each of her pieces is like a bustling city, whose inhabitants are colors and shapes that move about, interact, escape, come back, seem about to speak words and make music.

This is sad. Elizabeth Murray was so influential to me as a young artist back in the mid-80s and early nineties. I remember her coming to my graduate program in Chicago and the teachers, knowing how much I admired her work, invited me to the dinner after her talk. She was so gracious and generous to me. We had a conversation about painting and how important it is to keep it alive for yourself--to never get bored. I keep that in mind all the time.

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