It's hard to imagine Denver without Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. But it's time to start trying, because six weeks from now, the artist/entrepreneur will pack her bags and her big ideas and head off to Ohio State, where she's got "the best fellowship ever." Before that, though, Murphy's overseeing the biggest show she's ever put on in this town: Objectophilia, an offshoot of the 2010 Biennial of the Americas.
Ironically, it was the arts extravaganza during this city's last big turn in the international spotlight, the Democratic National Convention two years ago, that started her thinking about going back to school — and getting out of Denver. "We didn't need to import talent for the DNC, although it was really cool," Murphy says. But it also exemplified Denver's inferiority complex, that "Oh, there's talent here, but it's not as good as the other talent we're bringing in" attitude held by so many local arts organizations that she's worked with — or tried to work with — over the years.
"But the talent here is good enough," Murphy insists. "We totally have our own culture going here, and it rocks."
Murphy, an obvious choice for our first class of MasterMinds back in 2005, has been rocking with the best of them for two decades — creating her own art, running her own gallery (working for free for a solid year before she won that first MasterMind award), outfitting a renegade art truck during the DNC. And now she has a rocking show featuring dozens of local artists, Objectophilia, right by the Museum of Contemporary Art, which has its own Biennial-related show — and whose director, Adam Lerner, along with gallery director Bobbi Walker, was one of the few pushing for local artists' representation in the Biennial. Their efforts paid off with a packed opening on June 16. "I've never done anything that has this kind of attendance," Murphy says. "We had two to three thousand at the opening. I wanted Adam to look outside and freak with joy. We definitely brought the crazy."
And it was crazy getting the show together, too, since she didn't have the Biennial funding — a shoestring $14,000 — or a location (actually, two locations, one at 1490 Delgany Street and one at 1900 16th Street) until a few months ago. "When I found the space, I only had two and a half months to put it together," Murphy says. "I'd been working on it for a year; I had my list, but I hadn't contacted anybody."
Once she did, though, local artists jumped at the chance to be part of the show. "I think that my point with Objectophilia was that I really wanted to prove that the locals deserve a place at the table — and in anything that goes on here," Murphy says. "I think I proved that. And the locals involved in the main Biennial show proved it, too; Clark Richert's piece is amazing."
She's made her point, but she's not through with her local exhibitionism. There will be an Objectophilia swap-and-shop on July 21 (see Susan Froyd's piece on that event on page 25, as well as Michael Paglia's review of the entire show on page 36), and maybe a closing-night party, if she can scrape together a little more cash — or find someone who'll donate a DJ system for the night. "I'm so caught up in Objectophilia that I'm forgetting about my own work, which is sad," Murphy says — suddenly remembering. "I have an opening at Walker Fine Art this Friday, an installation of photos about plastic and environment and oil spill and that sort of stuff."
Murphy is a creative whiz at making something out of nothing; just look at what she did for Denver. And she recognizes that when she finally leaves (right now, she has no idea if she'll be coming back to the town she's lived in since she was two), the show will go on. "I'm glad to turn the mantle over to somebody else," she says. "If there's a mantle to even be picked up. There are so many people doing stuff right now; the work is spread among so many people now, which is awesome." Still, she has no trouble coming up with names — and throwing out a few recommendations for next year's MasterMind class. Sarah Slater, who just put on the Titwrench music festival, "is amazing," she says. Sarah Quinlan is an up-and-comer at Boxcar Gallery, Murphy adds, "and Dana Cain is kind of the new me, in terms of the events she's doing."
As she thinks over the scene she helped define, and will soon depart, the old Lauri Lynnxe Murphy starts getting nostalgic. "I totally started this journey as leaving Denver because I was pissed off," she admits. "And now I'm like all in love with Denver again. It really has struck me how much it's become the city that I always, always wished it was. I'm so proud of Denver— and all the people in it.
"That's my story."
And what a happy ending.