Friday, July 6, 2007

Resurrecting the past to correct the present

Artist Megan Murphy reveals hidden secrets

Express Staff Writer

Megan Murphy will show her graphite drawing and mixed media at the Gilman Contemporary, Ketchum.

Artist Megan Murphy considers Sun Valley a home away from home. Having lived in the valley for several years as well as maintaining a condo here, Murphy can always find a reason to visit. Her plans to return this July include an exhibition at the Gilman Contemporary gallery through July 28.

"Inheritance" is a collection of Murphy's mixed-media pieces. They address issues facing the West.

"They are photographs with painting. It is ghost imaging," Murphy said. "I'm always working with history and looking at how people have modern perceptions."

The paintings portray several incidents during the Indian Wars on the Columbia Plateau, specifically those involving Col. George Wright's campaign against the Coeur D'Alene, Palouse, and Spokane Indians in 1858.

Murphy's intense process of digitally altering photographs and printing on transparent film and then mounting them between aluminum panels and acrylic is only one step toward the finished product. The acrylic is layered with hand-applied words from poetry, mythology, historical references and documents that recorded the Wright campaign.

The painted text is applied in the negative form with silk-screens, and transfer lettering is applied in a positive form. After a layer of transfer lettering and oil paint, the layer dries and is sanded away. Only a remnant of the layer is left, and then another is applied. Each piece has approximately 20 layers of text and paint on it.

"It all started with Hangman's Creek in Spokane," Murphy said. "I was always curious about why it was called that. During the Wright campaign there were nine Native American men hung without trail. Essentially, it was a lynching."

Murphy said she grew up in Spokane and was never taught about that history. Her paintings reflect the place, history and quiet that all the sites she identifies in the Wright campaign embody.

"How we justify going to war and looking at historical references—you can see how things are going to go," Murphy said.

Each of Murphy's photographs, The Steptoe Battlefield (Manifest), The West Plains Battlefield (Inheritance), The Horse Slaughter Camp (Scorch), The Site of Qualchin's hanging (Leap), and Hangman's Creek (Lynch) marks the trail of Wright's campaign and the slow submission of the tribes through starvation, war and death.

Murphy will attend the Gilman Contemporary gallery on Friday, July 6, from 6 to 9 p.m.

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