100 Colorado Creatives: Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

#71: Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

In Denver's close-knit arts community, everyone knows Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. Even when she's gone, as she was for a couple of years while she was earning a graduate degree in Ohio, she remains a force here. Murphy sometimes shrugs it off, asking, "Why me?" But while she's so wholly immersed in her work and her process, Murphy is also equally engaged in the world around her: She's opinionated, enjoys great enthusiasms and is an expert on survival as an artist who is doing exactly what she was born to do. People look up to her -- and they like her, too.

See also: - 100 Colorado Creatives: Donald Fodness - 100 Colorado Creatives: Sabin Aell - 100 Colorado Creatives: Onus Spears

A member of Westword's first class of MasterMinds, Murphy remains occupied with the import of that designation: She still stands on the front line, fighting for artists' rights and paying it forward by staying involved in the MasterMind selection process. And first and foremost, Murphy is an artist's artist, bursting with commitment and the need to create.

Her list of accomplishments is almost too long to relate here, so we decided to let Murphy speak for herself by answering the 100CC questionnaire. Her eloquent answers follow.

Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy: I wanted to say Louise Bourgeois or Yayoi Kusama, or maybe Eva Hesse, but honestly, I don't think I could see it as a collaboration so much as an apprenticeship, they've all given me so much, and I would be weak-kneed in any of their presences, I'm sure. But someone who has been important to my work from the start is Ernst Haeckel, who occupies a strange place between artist and scientist. In the late 1800s, he documented all sorts of amazingly drawn microorganisms in a scientific format...only later it was found he was making a lot of it up. He had some crazy ideas about evolution, but there's no doubt -- the man could draw. That would be a fun collaboration.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

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Honey Boo Boo. No, just kidding. Well...only sort of.

I've been listening to a lot of Dr. Helen Caldicott's lectures regarding Fukushima, which are both terrifying and fascinating. I'm quite fond of Lee Camp, whose Moment of Clarity videos are both funny and enraging. Amanda Palmer's last Ted talk was an inspiration. My friend Tom Motley is tearing up the back of the Brooklyn Rail, and I think he's a total genius. A whole huge list of my talented friends inspire me daily: Christian Van Minnen, Ukulele Loki, Tammy Shine, John Grant, Katie Hoffman, Jason Heller, Mishka Shubaly...plus so many of my peers in Ohio who are now scattered throughout the country. Overall, I feel incredibly fortunate to have so many inspiring people in my life.

I'm also still completely fascinated with my mentors at Ohio State University: Ann Hamilton, Ken Rinaldo and Mary Jo Bole. All of them make incredible work, and I find myself going to look at their websites often...I'm still processing things they said to me. I was fortunate to get to see Ann's work The Event of a Thread at the Armory in New York at the beginning of the year, and also Ken's work Face Music at Nuit Blanche in Toronto the year before -- I feel so incredibly lucky to have had their help in pushing my work forward.

I'm also entranced by the dancers in the Mexican pointy-boot phenomenon. But I have an incredibly short attention span -- ask me next week, get a whole different set of answers!

Continue reading for more on Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

The whole "bad craft" or "unskilling" thing needs to die. Also, the word "unskilling" itself should die. I've always had trouble seeing lack of craftsmanship as a virtue. Details matter. But overall...any trend should die. By the time it's a trend, it's a cliché, and what artist should waste their time on that?

What's your day job?

Is that a trick question? No, seriously, at the moment, I'm job hunting! (Although the past month has kept me quite busy working on City Beautiful 2.0 at McNichols!) I graduated with my MFA from Ohio State University last summer, and I've been applying for tenure-track teaching jobs (almost impossible to get) and artist's residencies, amongst other opportunities.

So, the short answer: I guess for right now I'm still a full-time artist, which means wearing a lot of hats. The pay is pretty bad, but at least I'm happy, and I get to do cool stuff.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

I don't even need to think about this. Just make my work. Period. All over the world. I could go investigate different species of bees to work with (there are stingless bees in India and South America, which, since I've discovered I'm allergic, could be life-altering for me to work with), I could explore bioluminescent beaches and poodle moths and mimic octopi...swim in Palau's Jellyfish lake...I would just endlessly seek out inspiration and new ways to collaborate with nature. Honestly, I mostly see having to earn money as an impediment to studio time, and most of my ideas don't get produced because I can't afford to make them, so it would be a dream come true to only focus on my work and be able to afford to make whatever I want. I imagine some pretty crazy stuff would result! (And any mystery patron who would make this happen could have maybe 80 percent of my work in exchange, so if anyone is out there who wants to make this happen...seems like a good deal, right?)

Of course, I've always wanted to create a sustainable artist's co-housing situation in a giant factory, too. Rooftop greenhouses, community kitchens and workshops, well-appointed facilities and all artists own their own live/work spaces. Preferably close to a big city, but possibly in the middle of nowhere. And in this fantasy, I am not the one who runs this thing, by the way! We have a kind and benevolent board (maybe the mystery patron is part of it) who takes care of the business end of things so we can all just do our work. (Truth be told, this is an idea I've had some fairly serious conversations about, so who knows? Maybe not so much fantasy one day).

Continue reading for more on Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Lemme dust off my soapbox here...

Okay, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We need more support for artists here. And I don't mean support in the form of cheerleading or showing up at openings, but material, financial support in forms that the rest of the world recognizes as important. We do a very good job of supporting our institutions through things like the SCFD, which is stellar. But Colorado is one of the only states in the country that doesn't have grants for individual artists. And it isn't just about the money -- grants are an indicator that a community believes in someone, and that translates when people outside the community review someone's resume in a way that gallery shows, for example, don't. Grants also enable artists to take risks with their work and make things that are not driven in any way by commerce, which is important.

If we want our artists to have the best shot at success on the national level, we need to support them on the local level so people outside of our community can take notice. Patty Calhoun is one of the few people who has stepped up and addressed this serious impediment by creating the MasterMind Awards -- it would be so awesome to see other businesses follow suit, or to see people fight to get the individual artist grants restored that used to be given through the Colorado Council on the Arts.

People from outside of Colorado are often surprised at what a vibrant and talented art scene Denver has -- we're like the best-kept secret. We shouldn't be. We should be supporting and showing off Denver's talent at every possible chance; it only increases cultural tourism and shows Denver for the sophisticated city that it has grown into.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Man, that is HARD. I can't pick just one, that's not fair. First off, I think I might have to say Adam Lerner: the guy has the smartest, most interesting programming around, both in his curatorial choices and the MCA's multiple lecture series. Plus, without his support, Objectophilia [an exhibition Murphy curated] wouldn't have happened as part of the 2010 Biennial of the Americas, which would have meant more than thirty local artists would have been left out of it, and that kick-ass street party might not have happened, either. As far as artists go, Jill Hadley Hooper has always been one of my favorite artists in Denver. The way she handles line and color is breathtaking, and she's about the nicest person in the world. And she's also had her work appear all over the world as an illustrator, which is inspiring, and gives back to the community through her work with RiNo and Ironton.

I have to say, though -- I have been stunned, STUNNED at the explosion of talent that happened in my two-year absence. I have been loving all the new discoveries of work that I've been seeing, especially at Gildar Gallery. There's a lot I haven't even seen yet; it's like coming back to a whole new scene, which is super-exciting.

Continue reading for more on Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013?

So far, it's been a busy year! I'm just finishing up working on City Beautiful 2.0 for Create Denver, which will have a two-month run as a co-working space on the third floor of the gorgeous McNichols building. The same evening that opens on Friday, May 10, I have a show opening in Chicago at Gallery 19 of my "Doilies of Imminent Destruction Series," curated by my friend John McCoughey, who I met in grad school.

Most important, bee season has begun! I will be working with several local beekeepers and placing wax structures in their hives for the bees to transform into honeycomb sculptures...this is the collaborative process I have been developing for the past two summers, and it's been a long winter of planning, waiting to move forward -- although of course the rest of the studio work occupies my time in the off-season.

I also need to do some catching up on the Etsy store for my jewelry line, Ella & Rella -- I have a ton of new designs ready to go. At Powerhaüs we're about to unveil our final Saturday Open Studios, also -- the last Saturday of the month, Mona Lucero, Jimmy Sellars and I will have our studios open from 2 to 10 p.m. for people to drop by. And that's all just this month!

I'm excited about my first residency since grad school in the Catskills for the month of July, on a farm in a little cottage on wheels with an outdoor bathroom and kitchen. I'll get to work with the farmer's hives of bees, and I'll be creating an instrument that will allow me to point a camera at a field of fireflies and collaborate with them by translating their movements into music that will be broadcast as a live webcast. (Stay tuned...still working out all the details!) And in September, I'm hoping to do ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan again.

Last year, I was invited by the curatorial team Adoration Detroit to do a site-specific work in Vandenberg Plaza, site of the giant Calder sculpture that is the symbol of Grand Rapids. Since it had been the site where the Occupy movement had been meeting one year prior, I made tent-shaped seed bombs that were placed at the foot of the Calder and the public was invited to take them to spread through the community. This year, I would like to build a large-scale observation hive through which people can see bees at work on a scaffolding of laser-cut wood, an improvement on the prototype I made for my thesis show. I will need to seek support through a Kickstarter to afford to do it, but first, I have to get the idea accepted by a venue -- ArtPrize is a strange dance, but it was an amazing experience last year and I would love to do it again.

Beyond September, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing! Or where I'll be! (Exciting and scary!) 

Who do you think will get noticed this year in Denver's art scene?

I feel so out of the loop even answering, I am still discovering all the new players here, and I've been remiss in getting around to as much as I'd like to, thanks to bouncing in and out of town and hermitting myself away in the studio. But of what I've seen lately there are some things that stunned me: Suzanne Faris's sculpture at the Arvada Center State of the Art show was breathtaking; Ashley Williams's work is gorgeously obsessive and worthy of recognition; Emi Brady, Brittany Gould and Pattie Lee Becker are all doing fantastic work; and I've loved getting to know Likeminded Productions and Eric Dallimore's work through working with them on City Beautiful 2.0. I think Sabin Aell and Don Fodness, while pretty well-noticed already, are consistently doing really exciting things. And although not a visual artist, I think Onus Spears is one of the most interesting guys around; he seems poised to do something pretty great.

Of course, I would love to say the two new PAIR residents chosen at Powerhaüs, but we're not quite ready to announce who they are -- almost done with interviews! But I am quite sure, from the really strong pool of applicants we got, that the two we wind up sharing our studio with will definitely get noticed!

Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.

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