Brian Murray – Featured Artist

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

If you block it,
it will never exist through any other medium
and be lost.
The world will not have it.”

Choreographer Martha Graham wrote those words to dancer Agnes de Mille, and they seem as fine a mission statement for dance and all the arts as any a poet might compose.  Artists find in the world a beauty or perspective that is free of the gravity of utility, or the mundane, or any of the forces that can blind us to what is around us.  How many times do any of us look beyond the designation signifying function of a sign on the street to recognize the potential attraction of the object itself – its design or placement or interaction with the forms about it?

Artists help us see things.  Sometimes, they show us new forms, sometimes they draw our eye to things we’ve looked at a thousand times but that we’ve never truly seen.  This, at least from an outside perspective, might be the theme of photographer Brain Murray’s exhibit now showing at Tomato Head, Market Square.

As a long-time resident of Knoxville, Murray understands that the city has a lot of interesting things to see.  His interest in photographing them came by way of his interaction with Scott Schimmel and Lisa Sorenson in the early days of their store, Bliss, when they asked him to sell some of his work in the store.  They also encouraged Murray to take photographs of local scenes, Knoxville stuff that would appeal to both visitors and residents alike.  He says that the suggestion was a good fit for him because “I don’t really include people in my pictures so scenic landscapes and architecture are perfect.  All you need is good lighting.  There’s no bad hair day for those.”

It also worked because Murray most understands that even objects that seem most mundane in the world can have an appeal, maybe not beauty exactly, but something that catches his eye.  In some ways he opines that this is what drew him into photography.  “My sister painted, my dad painted, and my mom wrote poetry, I felt like I should have an artistic outlet, too.  But I can’t draw.  I mean, I can see the things but I can’t get them on paper.  Still, I noticed things that other people didn’t see, and so when I was 15 or 16 my parents got me my first camera.  I could capture things that were already there, but in my own way.  And it was fun. “

Of course, that’s something that many people feel, whether they know it or not.  Murray figures that there are countless photos of the Sunsphere.  It’s always the same structure, but light, and clouds, and perspective imbue each image with a unique nuance.  And those subtleties are what keep Murray engaged with subjects, sometimes over and over again: “It’s what draws my eye.  It’s the lighting.  I’ve taken so many pictures of the same thing but then you see it in a different light and it changes. “

“Another part of it is that I like the drawing aspect…  I like linear things, which is why I do a lot of architecture, landscapes.  I like a lot of lines, textures and patterns, so sometimes I’ll focus on that and not even think about what it is.  I mean the Tennessee Theatre marquis is cool, but when the light hits it just right it’s all about the lines of the bricks and the interplay of the curvature of the sign with its linear elements.”

Murray’s particular vision will be on view at our downtown location until March 3rd and the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from March 5th thru April 8th.  It’s an exhibit that brings together images of recognizable Knoxville and parts that you may not have noticed, but all of them come through Murray’s unique expression.  They are all images that really caught his eye, he says, “things that I couldn’t take my eye off of.  They’re not the typical landscape, I mean it could be a drain in the snow that I just couldn’t stop looking at it.”