My vision as an artist has been shaped by many elements. Both of my parents and all four of my grandparents were makers, there was an inherent desire to work with their hands and make things themselves. My mother a stained glass artist and my father a woodworker and darkroom photographer. My maternal grandfather a cooper, the other a machinist, my maternal grandmother a baker, and the other a maker of miniatures. My great and great-great paternal grandfathers were among of the first commercial photographers turn of the century in New York City and established the Byron Company in 1892. It is in my DNA. An array tools and countless ways of seeing and making have been ubiquitous throughout my life. I studied nutrition and sustainability as an undergraduate and was a pastry chef before going to Virginia Commonwealth University for my Master of Fine Arts. My family and these life experiences are inextricable and deeply impactful on my life as an artist and educator.

“In an increasingly mediated world, one of the most radical things artists can do is to use their hands, especially in the transformation of matter in its most telluric forms: earth, stone, wood, pigments, and oil”. – David Levi Strauss

The mark and history of the hand play important roles in my philosophy, practice, and process as an artist and throughout my life. I cut wood branches using a bear saw with a handle made by my father two decades ago. I manually skin the bark from branches with an heirloom draw-knife. I also often work in clay for its distinct physicality quality of malleability, which allow gesture and touch to be imparted with immediacy and subtlety, as well as its pre-historic origins and being directly from and of the earth. I juxtapose and combine these forms and materials with contemporary industrial materials, embracing geometry and structure within the language of my work. The surfaces are covered and given final form formed with a thickened, congealing paint. The final surfaces are typically vibrant, heavily textured, and mysterious. They elicit a desire to touch and investigate further, which is of course, my own motivation in the making.

I’m interested in alchemy, the history of objects, and in the relationship between nature and the manmade. The desire to transform these relationships, at times to make them more harmonious, at others to create discord, is at the center of my life and practice as an artist. This is a morphological art, which is an intrinsically optimistic approach, in my view. While I develop each series of nuanced pieces, time and space for experimentation and play remain constant, essential elements in my studio practice that traverses the space between painting and sculpture. While I often set parameters to guide the development of a series or body of work, intuition continues to play a significant role in consideration of texture, form, scale, and color. While the work is certainly painterly, it is important for the sculptures to operate in the world of objects. Sculptures require a viewer in motion and are never completely available, visually. I am drawn to this elusive and mysterious characteristic of sculpture.

Titles carry important information and help develop meaning in my work. Sculptures are titled two-fold, they are first descriptive with a prefix of their dominant physical characteristic accompanied by the commercial name of the paint. Each piece in the “Aperture” series has a distinct opening, while also creating an inside and outside. “Feelers” reach for each other, and engage our sense of touch and reach as humans. We often lean our body for support or ease, the “Leaners” also operate as possible extensions of the body, such as a walking stick or a form of measure. “Aequalis” references the symmetry of our own bodies, and the duality of mind and body. The ceramic works “Paddle and Burrow” and “Rolled and Folded” reference the action imparted to construct those works; they can be interpreted as vessels, specifically with an eye shaped orifice for the latter.

I further these pairings by creating interesting juxtapositions of color. Color elicits feeling; it is about desire. It has symbolic meaning and psychological weight. Sometimes cringe worthy and garish, the boldness of color has become as salient as the form of the work.

Many of my studio materials are repurposed. I have been collecting discarded and mis-tinted house paints for over a decade. I curate the colors intuitively and often mix many together. Branches are collected regularly from my upstate New York studio after storms and pruning. Timber rafter ties and polystyrene foam have been repurposed from the renovation of my upstate studio. The core of many of my sculptures, especially in the new “Feelers” are made from found Styrofoam packing peanuts.

I am represented by Stout Projects in Brooklyn, NY

rebeccamurtaugh@gmail.com

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