Artist List
James Murray

James Murray’s sculptures, whose parts are culled from the leavings of human activity and nature’s perfunctory cast-offs, are wrought with tough love, coddled with tender care and reborn to live a different life. Deconstructed and out of context, and more often than not juxtaposed with dissimilar materials, Murray’s found objects are revisioned to create pieces that are often humorous and sometimes whimsical, but always seemingly content with their current incarnation.

During this life-long pursuit as a sculptor, James has Graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York and worked for thirty years out of his loft studio on Great Jones Street in the East Village, NOHO. James Murray also works as a fine furniture builder and woodworker who transforms tired interiors into one-of-a-kind luxury living spaces. -- You will see the results periodically in Home magazine and Architectural Digest . -- In addition, Murray has a past life as a merchant marine captain, a one hundred-ton master in fact, an impressive credential indeed! So it is not surprising to see nautical elements constantly navigating their way into his pieces and morphing from the once useful to the simply beautiful. In Murray’s hands, a harpoon or a porthole - a mast or an oar, might find itself becoming a retired land-lubber existing comfortably in the landscape and no longer laboring at sea. Construction site leftovers, saved from a land-fill burial now stand proudly alive on a pedestal. Murray’s primary requirement before he begins to breathe new life into a wedge of stone wrenched haplessly from the side of a mountain or into a chunk of wood thrown nonchalantly aside, is that it shows signs of having lived. Those imperfect scared remains that no one wants, with checks and knots and whirls and cracks, are perfect.

In Murray’s series of small wooden houses, the universal shape visually draws us over, but it is the beauty marks and wounds in the wood that move us inside to our memories of home. In these amazingly simple house shapes, Murray has managed to hone ‘home’ down to its essence – inviting and protective in spite of the scarred history, actually, because of the scarred history. In his tall oak piece “Home Run”, roofed with brass brads that are reminiscent of our grandparents’ upholstered chairs, it is the deep gash from top to bottom that ultimately commands our attention. The tension we feel is created by the three small metal pieces - known in the trade as ‘pinch dogs’ - that appear to defy all odds and keep the massive piece of oak from falling apart. This somehow gives us hope – that all can and will be well with the world. A lighter piece “Welcome Post”, with its circular opening carved out by Mother Nature and its neat wedge-shaped slices carefully slit by Murray, stands erect like a reserved, but ever-smiling butler. One naturally returns the grin. Many homeless heavy metals along the edges of New York highways have been rescued and given a new lease on life by this artist who can see beauty in the ugliest of ducklings. Murray’s exceptional vision dignifies these ‘eyesores’, so that we too can see.

Most pieces include cavities and crevices -- those made by man, those made by nature and those made by Murray. These slashes and splits that have the inherent potential of becoming foreboding are warm and welcoming in Murray’s work. None of his pieces – however disparate the elements within them -- exude angst or anger, frustration or fear. A curve of limestone rests atop a piece of rusted cut steel smiling at passers-by. A steel spring that tirelessly supported tons of cargo moving at 70+ mph now hangs from above framed by a halo of bronze that once guarded the opening to a cabin below decks. Unlikely unions occur between fallen slate shingles and driftwood spit onto the shore by a tumultuous Hudson. ‘Washashores’ have made long journeys from one life to another having no idea of their arranged marriages or elite destinies. With Murray’s adept skill and accepting sensibility, the organic and the manufactured, the ugly and the beautiful, coexist in ways that humans seem to find elusive, and somehow each piece in its reborn state of being seems happy and content with how it ended up – for this life anyway. And after only a few minutes of conversation with the artist, one realizes that he is the same.


Carinda Swann, Director and Curator

Garrison Art Center Galleries, Garrison, NY 10524

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