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Washington Voices

Spokane Valley artist’s energy fills her work

Thu., June 11, 2009

When you meet Carmen Murray, she might ask you to hold your arm up, pointed toward the sky at about a 50-degree angle. She’ll put her hand near the top of your wrist and push down while telling you to resist. You’ll think, “Easy enough,” but she will win the first round. She will then give you a breathing exercise and ask you to do the arm thing again. You are much stronger the second time around. “You need to breathe,” she explained.

Murray has a lot of tricks up her sleeve; she learned shaman teachings from her father and grandmother when she was a child growing up in Edinburg, Texas. Her ethnicity includes Spanish, Mayan and Apache traditions. Her spirituality led her to art. She painted her first piece on a brand-new canvas cotton-picking bag. “It was of the Virgin of Guadalupe and it was pretty good,” she said, “I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to paint. My dad always said ‘everything is possible.’ ”

Another thing he said that stands out in her mind is “he does more who wants to than he who can.”

“I love that quote,” she said. Murray has no formal training in art but she is prolific, constantly creating. “If I haven’t done it, I will,” she admitted.

Murray is a 75-year-old firecracker. Her energy is evident as she dashed about her Spokane Valley home, pointing out her creations which include jewelry made of folded silver, unique stones, and old computer and watch parts, greeting cards, ceramic sculptures, painted and carved gourds, and dozens of paintings on large canvases.

Her paintings are filled with energy. They contain abstract, iconic, and angelic images, rich colors, and a blend of cultural references. “The universe is a melting pot,” she said.

Her pieces are mixed media and at times three-dimensional. Using her fingers, brushes, and a spatula, she applies media that includes glues, heavy gels, cheese cloth, gold silica, and paint to the canvases, allowing herself to be guided by the piece rather than dictating it herself. Figures and shapes emerge and lead her to its completion. Often she adds faces made of strong paper casts giving the illusion that the faces are emerging from the canvas. “I’ve experimented for so long in many mediums that I just do it,” she said.

Murray’s paintings are filled with texture and life. Her specialty is visionary art that exudes a powerful, personal energy with each piece telling a story or revealing a vision. “My heart sings when I’m doing art,” she said. “I’m constantly inspired.”

Murray has done many commissioned pieces and has a long list of private clients. She has exhibited her work from one end of the state to the other as well as in Coeur d’Alene. She is a regular artist at Ink to Media, 523 N. Pines Road.

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