Deirdre Murphy, Winds of Change

Deirdre Murphy, Night Flight, oil on canvas, 30″ x 30″, Winds of Change at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Winds of Change, Deirdre Murphy at Gross McCleaf Gallery

I knew a young woman who was terrified of birds, her reaction sheer panic, she also claimed her body slowed down wrist watches. As a child, Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds terrified me but I fell in love with Suzanne Pleshette. When Tipi gets attacked by the birds in that room was my first experience with irony and karma. Once, when I was a kid, I was exploring the woods near my house and came upon a burned out clearing filled with chirping robins. When the birds saw my pal Paulie and me they started dive bombing us and screeching, we ran out of the woods screaming. My Grandmom starting me collecting the bird stickers that came in her Red Rose tea boxes, nearly filled the book with birds of the world. One Christmas I got a bird field guide in my stocking.

In Stephen King’s The Dark Half, birds are psychopomps, a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. “Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπόςpsuchopompos, literally meaning the “guide of souls”) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife.” (Wikipedia) Angels have wings but so do flying monkeys, devils and harpies. Birds possess magic and myth.

My favorite dreams are those when I’m flying, it’s been a while since I’ve had one, but when I think about it, I remember the feeling. Looking down at the house in my neighborhood and zooming through space like Google Earth. Faeries have wings like dragonflys, and dragons have wings like bats but dinosaurs have wings like birds. Birds have crossed the realms and continue to do so.

“I am He who howls in the night;
 I am He who moans in the snow;
I am He who hath never seen light;
 I am He who mounts from below…” – H.P. Lovecraft, Psychopomps: A Tale of Rhyme

Stephen King once wrote some books under the pen name Richard Bachman, but the gag was blown by a …… And now when I see a flock of those damn birds, that’s what comes to mind. They’re psychopomps, harbingers of the living dead.” –  Goodreads

The concept of flight is mysterious and dreamy: bird watching, jets at the airport, space launches, helicopters from oak trees and paper planes. Winds of Change by Deirdre Murphy delivers that excitement and freedom of flight through action, pattern, color and character. The fluid compositions vibrate with the geometric hard edges and naturalistic birds portraits and murmurations.

Deirdre Murphy at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Deirdre Murphy, Dreaming of Achill, oil on canvas, 36″ x 96″, dyptych, Winds of Change at Gross McCleaf Gallery

“The birds are changing now in my paintings in that, probably a decade ago, it was just singular birds. And now it’s birds in a flock, in this murmuration. And so, they’re interacting, kind of. The birds are creating the motion, the movement. We were talking about that collective consciousness, the birds are the social networkers, you know?

The triangle shapes, they could be ‘spaces in between’ birds, they could be birds, they could be air. So that the representational bird is alluding to all the different interpretations it could be. When I was doing these paintings I was thinking about communities, collective consciousness, that kind of intellect that groups have. It led me to think about Facebook and all this social networking that we do, that we think is all trendy and up n’ coming now, they’ve already been doing social networking for eons.” – interview with Deirdre Murphy at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Deirdre Murphy, Winds of Change

Deirdre Murphy, Dreaming of Achill, oil on canvas, 36″ x 96″, dyptch, Winds of Change at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Deirdre Murphy, Winds of Change

Deirdre Murphy, Dreaming of Achill, oil on canvas, 36″ x 96″, dyptch, Winds of Change at Gross McCleaf Gallery

“Networking patterns create these amazing abstract shapes and movements. So the paintings have taken a kind of turn for me. The lines are convection currents, I studied the flight patterns and how there is a thermal loft or a lift that happens. And then the birds of prey, especially, will fly up to that thermal layer so that they can then loft, so they’re called convection currents. A lot of that kind of mark making is about that. And studying the different flight patterns between song birds, the passerines have a short path with a lot of movement and flutter.

Song birds fly very differently than birds of prey. And birds of prey can do these long soaring, almost like flap-less, kind of movement, they can really float, if you will. It’s almost like dance movements from a choreographers perspective where those lines come from. Many cultures use the bird as this mythological or mystical messenger between worlds. Birds can be at multiple places at once; they can be in the air, they can be on the ground and I as a painter embody the bird because I try and see the world anew, see it differently. I think about my perspective as a painter being in a bird’s eye view then it forces me to see things differently. But, you can think about it as a spiritual path of being out of the body and in the body.” – interview with Deirdre Murphy at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Deirdre Murphy, Winds of Change

Deirdre Murphy, Dawn, oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″, Winds of Change at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Gross McCleaf Gallery represents local and national artists with a focus on Contemporary Art. The gallery has been active in the Philadelphia arts community for over forty years, advising collectors and placing artists’ work in museums throughout the greater Philadelphia region. Gross McCleaf features monthly rotating exhibitions in two main galleries, special events, artist talks, and an extensive inventory. Our mission is to promote mid-career artists, while seeking to build the careers of emerging talents.” – Gross McCleaf Gallery

Gross McCleaf Gallery127 S. Sixteenth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, 215-665-8138. Deirdre Murphy Winds of Change at Gross McCleaf Gallery through November 28th, 2015.

Read Laura Stork‘s DoNArTNeWs review of Deirdre Murphy, Migratory Paths at URBN

Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted

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