Letter from the Elizabeth Murray Artists Residency

Dear Friends,

After two weeks upstate at the Elizabeth Murray Artist Residency, I return to New York with a renewed focus and sense of purpose to make art as a way to live, and particularly to make paintings as fields for thinking.

Together with a rotating group of 5 other artists, I worked in studios built into the hay loft above what had been Murray’s own studio in an 18th century dairy barn on the New York - Vermont border. Each artist had been invited to this inaugural year of the residency because they were connected with the Murray family or had shown with Collar Works, the Capitol region art collective that has been tasked with organizing the residency.

During our stay, we lived in the farm house, which was equipped with two staircases and separated living quarters on the second story. It had been built in the late 1800’s for two families who lived and farmed together, sharing kitchen and common areas.

Elizabeth Murray managed to carve her own path in life and art — a celebrated career that included raising children; painting monumental abstract paintings that also managed to speak about women’s experience. It seems appropriate that she would find this unusual house — made for two families working together — that debunks the myth of the nuclear family unit alone on the frontier as the default formulation of rural American life.

Murray managed to decolonize a variety of symbols to create the fullness of her world: the classic New England farm is, and has been, a place for communal living and collaboration; abstract painting becomes a site for the dream-logic of domestic entanglement; a woman artist takes on the role of the male genius, “reshaping modern abstraction.”*  

As an emerging female-identified artist making work in conversation with painting and practices of being, I am energized by the way Murray demonstrated that our lives and careers can be what we make them. Murray’s work shows a commitment to taking and making one’s own path is a practice of both relating to others and acting in integrity with one’s own gut motivations. This manner of working is in itself a way of practicing feminism and dismantling the guiding patriarchal fantasies of individual genius and zero-sum economics.

It was an honor to spend time in this place, molded as it was by an artist who lived her life with such courage. It was also a pleasure to share space with the artists, members of the Murray-Holman family, Collar Works board members and visitors who came through.

Below are images of the farm and works I made there, as well as a list of my amazing fellow artists in residence.


In gratitude,

Alex