Brenna K. Murphy, Home Imagined at Metropolitan Gallery 250
“Metropolitan Gallery 250 is a non-profit arts space which seeks to provide exposure for emerging artists while connecting local art and local business. “There is a lot of cross-over between the food scene and the art world in Philadelphia so James and I wanted to create a place where emerging artists could sell their work, and be supported by restaurants and other small businesses,” said Wendy Born, who owns Metropolitan Bakery along with baker James Barrett. “We hope all our customers, friends and colleagues will support and be inspired by these great young local artists.” And just like that (and twenty years in business), Metropolitan Gallery 250 was born in October of 2012.” – Metropolitan Gallery 250
I gather the tips of my hair in my hand, arrange them so they form a straight edge, and stroke the strands with my index finger. I pull the bundle of hair up to my nose and inhale. It softly tickles my lips, cheeks, and eyelids as I drag the hair across the rest of my face. I perform this simultaneously conscious and subconscious ritual again and again, providing myself with comfort, quiet, the memory of my mother’s body, and a sense of safety. I make myself feel ‘at Home.’ – Brenna K. Murphy
The mission of The Center for Emerging Visual Artists is to coordinate a strong regional support system for visual artists, to advance the careers of professional artists in the region, to promote relationships between artists and the communities in which they live, and to increase access to and promote interest and understanding of visual art among citizens of the community. – CFEVA
Brenna K. Murphy and I stood on 18th Street outside of Metropolitan Gallery 250, the gallery was packed with friends to see her one-person show, Home Imagined, an installation of embroidered drawings made with her own hair. The gallery was serving brownies and the many kids were screaming with joy. On an artist retreat to France she created a large drawing of a doll house on a sheet of paper with tiny holes punched through and then hair embroidered into the paper. I asked Brenna how she connected with Metrolpolitan Gallery 250?
“Through CFEVA. I got the alumni travel grant through the career development program at CFEVA, so, I used that to go to Paris for my residency, where I made this piece. It was amazing. And then they usually do some sort of exhibition when you return, there was a sort of scheduling conflict in the CFEVA gallery so Gen reached out to Metropolitan and they were interested. So! Here we are. CFEVA is amazing, they do so much for us.”
What is the connection between the large work and the smaller pieces on the wall?
“The little pieces I call Domestic Objects. But many of the small pieces in this show are items from the doll house. So, the beds, the little silhouette portraits in the living room, I’m sort of pulling out little elements to highlight them, I guess. To reference how the objects in out lives, the physical objects and spaces in our lives, even though there’s a lot of, ‘Home is Where the Heart Is’, it doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter where you’re living, what house you’re in. I actually think the opposite. Those objects in our house? They’re meaningful. People get attached to an armchair or a certain bed because it has a family history or all different reasons. I want to look at that and the objects influence our psychological processes. Our well-being, and just the way we feel about our homes. What we decide is home and not home.
Also, too, that piece is so enormous that nobody, I don’t know many people that can take that home and have space for it, so, I thou, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have little mementos.’
How do you prepare for such a big project?
“For reference I had a lot of old children’s books, old photographs, I will trace objects and furniture and tweak and make changes. I make it my own even though I feel a little guilty about the tracing part.”
But it adds to the child-like nature of the doll house.
“My secret is I started out as a photographer, and now all my work is drawing based. It’s sort of ironic but so it goes. Get the work done and realize your mission. For the small ones I make the drawing, tape it to the back, shine a light on it and then poke the holes. And then stitch and scan it and document it that way. The large piece is different, I think you saw my video, I had to hand the paper on the wall, project the drawing, poke all the holes, which took like a week of the studio time, poling holes. And then take it off, hang it from bars because it’s too big to flip over, so then I had to push the hair through and walk around. Walk back and forth. It took me two hundred and ninety eight hours of stitching alone, not including drawing and poling holes. There’s a lot of hours in that embroidery.”
Sean Stoops helped Brenna realize her art installation in the window filled gallery. I asked him what he had to do?
“Well, it’s not often you get to see the back of her pieces, so, I installed the large framed piece hanging from the ceiling. I kind of changed the original way it was shown at Tyler, they had a different system for hanging it but they have much taller ceilings. So we came up with our own cable system. I thought having it hang in the middle of the space was the best because it really needs to be seen from both sides. I really like being able to see the back of it because because usually with her wall pieces you don’t see all that went into it.” – Sean Stoops
“Many thanks to those of you who made it out to the wonderful Opening Reception of “Home Imagined” on May 3rd! If you couldn’t make it, fear not – there’s still time! Gallery hours for the exhibition are Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-4pm and by appointment (email firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll be staffing the gallery at various points throughout this weekend (May 17th and 18th) – perhaps I’ll see you there!” – Brenna K. Murphy
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Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted.
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