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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
early 1980s
Tempera, ink marker and ink on paper
24 x 18 inches
Collection of
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Murray's first large-format, fully developed works on paper (eighteen-by-twenty-four inches, sometimes larger) were executed with art supplies provided by his physician, Dr. William Rawlings. For unknown reasons, Murray sometimes attempted to portray what were, for him, "genre" subjects, in a style that, although still relatively abstract, included many recognizable forms. Regardless of subject matter, Murray's allegorical/narrative intentionality always took precedence. Three pieces from 1980 or 1981 demonstrate this aspect of his work. The first appears to be a family portrait inside a house, with Murray in the center, his wife on the right, and their eleven children arranged throughout the drawing. The roof is yellow (i.e., God blesses this house), but the house is filled with conflict (red/blue) and impurity (black). Murray's wife is red and black with touches of blue—Murray does not have a favorable opinion of her but acknowledges that she had good qualities. The children—each has a distinct personality and character, a separate mix of the five "charged" colors—are portrayed in color combinations indicating that the artist's attitude toward them ranged from very positive to very negative. Murray colors himself and one of the children entirely blue. Another figure, possibly a favored child who died, is blue and white, while still another child is almost all red—certainly not the apple of Murray's eye.