Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Murph’s Work | Loghry

I always love hearing my professors talk about their work. I spend so much time learning from them but very little actually looking at their work and taking the opportunity to learn from that as well. The first thing about Murphy’s work that caught my attention was the obvious surreal quality each piece possesses. I am naturally drawn to the surreal and bizarre. I am exceedingly interested in the subconscious and the mind at rest.

It was interesting to hear about Murphy’s inspirations behind the drawings and the significance of writers and artists alike. I am impressed by those who can draw from life but even more so from imagination. I think that the fact that Murph refused to look at any images for help enriches his work. It makes it that much more unique because it is solely his, it came directly from his mind. That may seem redundant but I believe it is harder than it sounds. I am intrigued by his thought process when he was making these works. I am intrigued by the colors he chose, the lines and the incredible images he created from his imagination. Murphy shows the perfect balance between subconscious surrealism and artistic control.


Morgan Loghry

Ashley Lyon

Ashley Lyon’s work is both incredible and inspiring. It’s not often that a sculptor captivates my attention but her work is something i’ve never seen before. Ashley began by talking about the full size figures and how one of them had slumped over in her studio. Building a full size human sculpture out of clay seems so strange. It made me think of Adam and Eve being brought out of the dust, as if she was creating her own people. The pictures of her studio made me laugh because of all the different body parts strewn about, its how I imagine the lair where frankenstein was put together.
Buying and renovating a church looked like months of work but the space they finished with was stunning. I thought it was interesting how she talked about the church being abandoned and how she could feel the atmosphere of the place and thousands of prayers that had been offered up. Lyon’s piece of the stands for the choir fit right in with the atmosphere and complimented the space because they too were empty. An abandoned church with empty risers.
Id like to dedicate a paragraph to fact that she makes fabric out of clay and it looks just like fabric. The pillows and blanket and gloves are all so amazing. They look exactly as they should and as if I could lay my head down on the pillows and fall asleep. I have a feeling that she could replicate anything in my room with clay and I wouldnt notice until I tried to use it.


Ashley Lyon genuinely enjoys what she does and she does it well. Her passion comes out in her work and it is truly inspiring.

-Jordan Smith

Prof Murphy’s Sabbatical Report

I really liked what Professor Murphy said about his sabbatical:  that he wanted to be “free of distractions to be free to be distracted”.  Many are the times that I wish I could do this!  In those rare moments when I can just let my mind wander into distraction (instead of homework, housework, or child rearing) it comes up with some wonderful things!  Given the nature of his body of work, I’d say he more than succeeded.

While of a more abstract nature there is something poetic about his drawings/paintings.  They were intriguing and drew me in.  Like a poem there is more to them than what one sees at first.  There is something deeper there.  Something…I don’t know…spiritual?  I’ve never been good at expressing how I feel when looking at art.  I know what I like but it’s hard to say more than that.  When I’m looking at art I look for something that grabs me, that stands out.  Professor Murphy’s work certainly grabbed my attention.  I could look at his work for hours and still find something new.  They remind me of shadow boxes where there’s always something hidden that you didn’t see before.  I love that!

Prof. Murphy said that there are “no new ideas”.  Perhaps what we need is not something new, but a new perspective on what we have?  His work certainly gives one a new perspective on an old concept.

Chris Cilento

Murph’s Work

“There are no new ideas out there,” Murph said, as he ran through a list of influences that numbered almost as many as his actual works. He explained that, “Even when you don’t see them (other people’s ideas) you are doing them.” Murph hadn’t known about steam punk art until someone told him that is what he was doing. It can be disheartening to think that we will never come up with something new. But that is only if making something new is the goal.

When I looked through the pieces that Murph has up in the show I do see a strong similarity to Joseph Cornell’s work, but what I see most is poetry. His works are each a poem, structured and framed in a cohesive composition of color, shapes, textures, moods, imaginations, and thoughts. But these are wordless poems, meaningless poems. I just had a conversation with Murph today and something he said caught my attention, “The greatest poems of all have no words. The greatest poems of all have no meaning.” I couldn’t help but think of his art. I could look at each one of them for hours, constantly finding new facets, or relishing the complexity, but at the end of those hours I would still have no idea as to what this art is saying. Even the words I find on the surface seem more like a series of lines and shapes than syntax and grammar.

So perhaps the goal of art is not to make something new. Perhaps the point of all this is to make something so meaningful that words and cognitive meaning cannot be ascribed to it. Visual work has the power to move feeling deep inside of us; it has the power to name us and the world in ways that letters and words cannot. I think that Murph has achieved this with his poetic drawings.

Faculty Panel | Kim Logee

For me, the most rewarding part of the art faculty panel was listening to the professors explain the inspirations for their work. It’s easy to think that drawing inspiration from other artists is cheating somehow, but the opposite is true. Art flourishes best in a community, where artists grow and learn from each other, spurred toward more magnificent accomplishments. Our professors demonstrated this fact, referencing their greatest influences and the way these influences impacted their work.

It was interesting to note that, though the professors chose their work quite separate from each other, the individual pieces somehow came together to convey a cohesive series of thoughts. It leads the observer to wonder whether he or she experiences truly unique inspiration, or whether the thought processes active in his or her own life represent a current trend of thought in the people around him or her. In this way I suspect that the professors drew some degree of inspiration from each other as well without even recognizing it, the result of working in close proximity.

Professor Baxter’s work strikes a chord with me, the way his fish bowls commemorate the existence of creatures that may soon be gone. Even in my own life I have seen nature change as humankind encroaches on it, and it pains me to think of a time when I will observe it vanish entirely from around me. I particularly enjoyed the more three-dimensional fish in some of the bowls, which seemed to be struggling to escape to the natural world from which they were taken. On the other hand, it’s possible that they are sinking from their natural state into the bowls, becoming little more than a memory, an illustration. One way or another, the bowls reflect the state of change occurring in the natural world outside.

These concepts appear elsewhere in the show, from Professor Huth’s amphibians and insects – the dwindling numbers of which I have heard him lament on a number of occasions – to the fish-like creatures appearing in Professor Murphy’s drawings. Professor Murphy’s work evoked a sense of nostalgia in me, being a person who habitually collects little odds and ends like those presented in the drawings by which to remember specific events. The fish-creatures in his work associate with the fish in Professor Baxter’s bowls, both of which recall a time passed. Likewise, Professor Cooley’s choice to present one of his photographs flat on the ground alludes to the surface of the water in Professor Baxter’s bowls. The reader is invited to peer down beyond a transparent boundary into the world beyond. Professor Taylor and Professor Rhett also present work that refers to nature, from Professor Taylor’s delicate thread constellations to Professor Rhett’s watercolor paintings of scenes from his travels.

In many ways, art is often a method by which one processes memories, rather than the process by which one creates. It was wonderful to hear the professors discuss their work, the better to understand their inspirations and be inspired myself.

Ted Murphy: Sabbatical Report

Ted Murphy began his talk with an extensive recognition of the artists and poets that influences his work. I think this was more than just a helpful gesture to the viewer. I believe this gives us insight into a huge part of what makes Murph’s work what it is. Murph places a huge emphasis on the things that inspire him to his work. During his sabbatical he was careful to surround himself with the kinds of things that he knew would impact him to make more work. He surrounded himself with new things, with things that he respected and admired, with things that he intrigued him. In a way. this was the first step he took to creating his work. He didn’t sit down and brainstorm ideas from what he already knew, he stepped outside, went on a walk, picked a flower, surrounded himself with voices that spoke to him, opened himself to other perspectives and allowed his own approach to art work to take a different direction.

Murph certainly did take a new direction with this new body of work. His forms, while a few may be based on real objects or animals, are entirely invented. He opened himself up to his imagination, not only giving something a second life in a painting, but actually creating the object itself, and creating the space it is in , the only space that this object can live in. The composition of his pieces allude to Joseph Cornel’s boxes. An interesting comparison is that Murph’s “boxes” are a collection of invented objects instead of found ones, in a space that is entirely confusing and changeable, instead of in a shallow 3d box. SO while his composition references  Cornel, his manipulation of space is entirely his own. He is interested in the transportation of objects from one space to another, or even an illusion of their existence in multiple spaces at one.

While the subject matter of Murph’s current work is certainly intriguing and imaginative, his interest in these pieces stems primarily from the drawing process and not the objects themselves. In the same way that  he said when he opened his talk, that “poetry slows down the process of living”, his experimental and freeing approach to drawing certain speaks to the slowing down of life in order to experience it more fully, opening ourselves up to the potential of change and growth.

Anna Maria Tricarico

Profesor Ted Murphy Sabbatical Report

It is always interesting when Professor Murphy speaks. He never tells the same story twice and his art never gets old. Our art seminar class had the privilege to attend Murphy’s report from his recent sabbatical. Through his talk he talked about how he wanted to accomplish goals while on sabbatical. He wanted to be able to read, create a new body of work and watch films. These three things I would like to be able to do if I got the chance to do a sabbatical. I also appreciated the professor Murphy explained what a sabbatical is. As students we hear that term tossed around here and there but all we know about it is that particular teacher is unavailable for meetings. I didn’t know that you are eligible to receive one after seven years. Neither did I know that the professor must submit a write up of what he or she plans to do with their time. This information reminds me that even professors still have homework they have to hand in.

One of my favorite parts of his presentation was the fact that he chose to show us a majority of pieces that haven’t been seen or are not displayed in the Ortlip Gallery. They were something new for the eyes to behold and were very well done. I wish I had more time to look at each one. Another thing I liked about Professor Murphy’s work was that he didn’t want to invented all of his objects in the works. They may have been influenced by other artists but they weren’t directly drawn from.

Professor Murphy has an interesting way of handling each of his pieces. Each one has so much detail and color that I wish I could pick one up and look closer. He made the comment that most galleries however discourage you from touching any of the pieces. I also like how Professor Murphy mentioned that he doodles often and that a lot of the time those doodles play a part in his pieces. I like him have a hard time paying attention to a lecture or talk when i’m not doodling. It helps me focus on whats being said and again like Murph the topics end up as part of the image itself. I never knew that the figure band like lines had a name either, they are called a mobius strip. That was one of my new fun facts that I got out of the talk. I also found myself doodling on the bottom of each page. Why is it that when I listen to Murphy that my drawing end up very surrealist? Well it probably has to do to the fact that his drawings were influenced by surrealists such as Magritte. So many eyeballs everywhere. Anyway I hope to see more of Murphy’s work. I plan on taking a day to better examine those housed in the current show. My suggestion is that you do the same.

– Brett Loretz


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