Lori Murphy: Transforming the Canon

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Lori Murphy: Transforming the Canon

Jul 28 — Sep 10, 2022

Check gallery website for hours and additional info

Artist’s Reception, Saturday, August 6, 1-4pm

Lori Murphy continues her series of work based on the deconstruction and reconstruction of John Canaday’s Metropolitan Seminars in Art, a classic series of instructive books about art and art making from the 1950’s. This solo exhibition includes seventeen recent pieces comprised of pages torn from the canon, reassembled and transformed with paint, graphite, wax or gesso and in some cases heavily stapled.

Transforming the Canon | Lori Murphy

Four years ago, I began dismantling and reassembling a volume set of Metropolitan Seminars in Art by John Canaday. I was interested in altering his narrative, writing new stories over the old. Part of my process is the continuous rhythm of deconstruction and reconstruction–breaking down this vintage canon of art history from the 1950s and reworking it to my own liking. I ripped out pages, tore them up, obliterated sections with whitewash and graphite, then reassembled the parts until they spoke some truth to me. It has been an ongoing, mysterious search.

At first, I sewed the disassembled pages together with thread. Stitching referenced “women’s work,” and I metaphorically mended history. My discovery of staples to fasten the fragments together significantly shifted my visual language. Not as gentle or delicate as thread, the seductive metallic staples referenced armor or weapons. Pounding the stapler was more physical than sewing, let alone the satisfying, echoing kaCHUNK with every staple–perfect for my mission of transformation.

Bumping up against and responding to these art history books has been insightful. I think about the artists–those represented and those who are not. I consider the patrons’ influence on the work’s subject matter. I am drawn to the human experience revealed and what it tells me. All this, through John Canaday’s biased filter of what is good art and what is not. History speaks to where we find ourselves today–it’s a quagmire, a real stew, and that is where the juice is, for me. I’m finding my path forward by unmaking and remaking this old narrative, one piece at a time.

About the Artist

Lori Murphy is a mixed media artist living and working in San Francisco. Her art spans a diverse range of interests, from works on paper and found-object sculptures to street art. Using everyday materials and environments, Murphy creates her personal narratives. She has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the Bay Area and received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.


Lori Murphy. Like a Moth to a Flame — 13.25 x 9.5 inches Art history book pages, staples, graphite, wax and paint