ARTIST & DESIGNER
Kelly Sheppard Murray lives and maintains her studio Raleigh, North Carolina. She is an Associate Professor of Art at Wake Technical Community College where she teaches 2D and 3D design, sculpture and painting while maintaining a vibrant and full practice that includes commissions and public exhibitions. Recent solo shows include Curiosities, Charlotte Russell Contemporary, Raleigh; Interactions, corporate office installation at Willowtree App with DAG’s art@work program; Accumulated Color, VAE, Raleigh’s The Lab; and Wilma Daniels Gallery, Wilmington. Some of the group shows: Colorful Accumulations, Artmospher, Clayton, NC; Art Ritual, Charlotte Russell Contemporary; Durham Art Guild’s 65th Annual Juried Exhibition and the Knoxville’s Dogwood Arts Regional Art Exhibition. You can follow her work on Instragram @kellysheppardmurray_art.
I fashion a wide range of polymorphic, multicolored structures that have their roots in natural forms, drawing from the shapes of plants, moss, lichen, fungi, shells and geological forms but not typically replicating specific species or locations. I observe urban development in the nearby surroundings, where I see the devastating human impact on the natural habitats that we feel so disassociated from. My observations at a changing landscape has fueled my desire to observe and study the small and often ephemeral species in the natural world that demonstrates strength and resilience because it persists even in harsh and inhospitable locations. I want to engage the viewer to think about their relationship with the environment by making nature inspired forms from industrial materials. I use readily available materials used for domestic construction which I form and then layer encaustic wax paint to transform the otherwise ordinary materials into objects reminiscent of the natural world. I create my small sculptural elements day after day in a somewhat ritualistic practice that builds a quantity of elements due to the persistent daily making.
Collecting hundreds of small forms, I slowly and deliberately assemble my pieces for installation – each one a unique building block to develop my personal visual language that is then arranged in varied ways within an exhibition space. By developing this malleable visual idiom and relying on modules that can be reconfigured or rearranged depending on the circumstance, I rely on a fluid and changing language that allows me to create a new story with each installation. I can, then, invite the audience to join me as we try together to decipher a narrative. The day-to-day practice is intended to remind viewers how small steps can have a significant impact on both our perceptions of the world and our environment itself.
I follow my intuition and welcome the chaotic nature of an unplanned and spontaneous process. This manifests at the level of individual sculptures because the forms are usually made without sketches or detailed plans but also when creating a display where the installations are often a dialogue with the space or curator for the project. Color, shape, texture, positioning, and pattern are each considered as means to communicate ideas and create associations. In some instances, the sculptural components have been arranged in a rather dense but fluid and amorphous stretches along the wall space and in others a more sparce arrangement may be appropriate. Chromatic gradients and grids are used often to provide visual order to the sculptural elements and connect to my interest in scientific cataloguing and studying the world. In other instances, the chronological order in which the components were created has provided the structure for display. By arranging and rearranging my sculptures, I accept and engage with the idea that there is always more than one possible configuration, more than one story to tell. I am at once structuring this world and also questioning our methods and inclinations to structure and categorize things with narrow and incomplete language and systems. Rather than heed a limiting impulse for a single arrangement or answer, I strive to remain open to change, and approach the experience of installing and making with play and a sense of curiosity about the world and the world I am making.