Michelle Murphy

“Tumbling Tumbleweed” (performance for camera, a photographic series) 2019

Michelle Murphy is a visual and performance artist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Chicago, Illinois. Murphy is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Photography at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Art and Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

While performing in public, Murphy shifts expected and suggested behaviors. Without warning, permission, or permits, the performance is witnessed by an incidental viewer. After research and engagement with sites of historical significance, Murphy performs physically challenging durational work for a viewer beyond Murphy’s creative community; this is an important aspect of Murphy’s philosophy for creating a practice that fosters critical discourse with opportunity for accessibility. Murphy performs in front of visible camera equipment, drawing attention to her/their actions, and echoing the lack of privacy and pressure to perform in modern life between lived experiences and online sharing. The video footage becomes the afterlife of the work for exhibitions and her/their large internet community. While online, Murphy considers the potential of revisioning history using her/their own writing for each visual and time-based post, mindful of the potential for humor and cross-references to canonical history via searchable text, tags, citation, community building, and PR “speak”. In Murphy’s studio-based photographic and video work, she/they employ artificial lighting, optical effects, and editing effects to highlight a slippage between idealism and reality. Beauty and spectacle in Murphy’s work is counter-balanced with gestures of futility, (over)extending the corporeal body, and the use of props, consumer products, and costume.

Notably, Murphy’s practice draws from first-hand experience within the American Space Program. As a full-time photographer for NASA from 2004 to 2015, she/they accumulated an appreciation of NASA’s methodology and an awareness of the gaps within the space administration’s social history. This informs her/their projects about: Utopic space, human rights and Anthropology, Big Bang, birth, counter culture, Anthropocene, urban space, lens-based history, Space exploration, and the extraterrestrial. Murphy’s work revises the exclusionary aspects of science and exploration and her/their research orbits around those omitted from popularized narratives.

Murphy earned a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a New Artist’s Society Fellow (2017) and a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Murphy has participated in several artist’s residencies including: Mana Contemporary Miami, SITELAB at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Elsewhere (Greensboro, NC). Murphy’s interdisciplinary work has been exhibited in NYC, Paris, Switzerland, Guatemala City, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland and throughout the Midwest. Murphy co-curates the art and culture publication MAKE8ELIEVE with Cetusss (Swiss Artist + Designer). From 2013-2015 Murphy was the Director and Founder of the Artist’s Residency Program and Gallery, Micro Art Space, in Cleveland Ohio which provided solo exhibitions, support, documentation, and mentorship for 18 Artists culminating with their solo exhibitions and public receptions monthly.

Murphy has lectured at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), University of Chicago, University of New Mexico, Ithaca College, University of Utah, Loyola University, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland State University, and Cuyahoga Community College.