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Todd Murphy: The Courage of Margaret Mead
Time takes another meaning in Todd Murphy’s paintings and art installations. We move into an unknown land, an allegory of all the ones we have lived in. Murphy’s universe is filled with characters somewhat familiar to us, but here represented in unusual ways. Dynamics between objects and subjects may seem otherworldly, or recall a time long forgotten.
An impressive painting, The Courage of Margaret Mead portrays a young lady in a white evening dress in the midst of a large silent room. Her back to us, she is looking at a large window display of various bird species. They all seem dead. Tigers and other wild cats surround her. Are they stuffed or alive? They all seem suspended in time, about to emerge from their frozen state.
Murphy’s painting depicts a poetic scene, full of questioning. What is Margaret doing in this strange place in the middle of the night? Is this a dream or a piece of our history? A changing nocturnal light adds to the mystery of the space: green near the birds, golden over the cats, lunar on the dress. The composition is geometric, the characters naturalistic, the work glowing.
Margaret Mead was a groundbreaking anthropologist. She had an intense and unusual love life. She was as fierce as a woman could ever dream to be. Her last position was at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, which seems to be the site portrayed in this painting.
Text: Barbara Stehle
Todd Murphy, The Courage of Margaret Mead, 2000, 40.6 x 61 cm. © Todd Murphy