Contemporary, timeless, decorative

Enos Ray
Artist Enos Ray uses vibrant colors in his musician series. Photo by Ralph Stewart

By Brooks Robards - July 5, 2007

Artists Kitty Murphy and Enos Ray launched their summer season at the Stanley Murphy Gallery on State Road in Chilmark Sunday, July 1. On view is an inviting array of new and old work, including works in oil and pen and ink, decorative art in the form of gemstone jewelry, narrative and abstract painting and giclée prints of work by Ms. Murphy's late father, Stanley Murphy.

For the second year, Ms. Murphy has concentrated her creative energies on fashioning gemstone necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Her color palette favors soft blues, greens, lavenders, and whites, and her designs rely on a simplicity that highlights the stones she selects. The semi-precious gems she uses include colored quartzes, chalcedony, and pearls.

"I'm like a magpie," she says of herself. "Whatever glitter catches my eye." Like her painting, her new decorative work is stylistically distinctive. Giclée prints of paintings by her father, a well-known and much-loved Island artist, are a new endeavor for the Murphy/Ray artistic partners.

"The prints are one way of getting his work out there," Ms. Murphy explains of the decision to offer the reproductions. "We sort of feel my father might disappear from view." The giclée is a relatively new reproduction format employing high-resolution digital scans and archival quality inks placed on a variety of surfaces, including linen and paper.

One of the giclée prints is a soulful portrait of Kitty Murphy as a two-year-old whose shoulder-length brown hair with bangs floats busily around her face while a deep red fabric is draped actively over her bare shoulder. The original was exhibited last year at the Murphy Gallery.

Another reproduction, startlingly different in mood and style from the somber if vibrant portrait of Kitty, depicts a phantasmagorical blue heron. The creature stands in shallow water in front of a jungle-like mass of green foliage, with a vivid red eye and an equally bright red heart in his beak. Two more giclée prints are due to be included in the show, but at presstime they had been returned to the printer for color adjustments.

The majority of Enos Ray's work is hung in the second half of the two-room Murphy Gallery. After focusing on vibrant portraits of African-American musicians and dreamy bayou landscapes in recent years, Ray's work has exploded in a number of new directions. Instead on concentrating on characterization, the paintings use narrative techniques to tell lively stories.

One handsome and powerfully rendered oil on wood may reflect a transition from Ray's earlier preoccupations toward his new, more narrative approach. Using a dark palette and relying on figures caught in violent movement for its storytelling, this oil presents a barn on fire where men are trying to control two terrified horses.

Ray has a knack for mining his past that has always served him well. He mythologizes his time spent in the South in a series of new paintings set there. "Camptown Races," on loan from Ray's daughter, features horses again, and many others narrate fishing expeditions, picnics, or other sometimes feverishly people-filled activities reminiscent of Brueghel. In one pastoral scene, women bathe nude outdoors while a clutch of boys spy on them from rocks overhead, and it might borrow its theme from Impressionist work, although the feel is very different.

Small pen and ink compositions, strongly colored in bronzes, siennas and ochers, fill an entire wall of the gallery. They show off Ray's talents for drawing and creating magical figures and designs. Many seem to be abstract decorative patterns, until the fish, birds, horses, cows, winged humans or other mythical creatures emerge. Others are intricate animal patterns. All are hand-colored. Additionally Ray is showing at least one large abstract expression painting.

Ray has taken his imaginative explorations onto new and productive planes of artistic endeavor. The combination of this new work, the simple beauty of his partner Kitty Murphy's jewelry, and the new giclée prints of Stanley Murphy's work make for a rewarding display at the Murphy Gallery.

The exhibit will continue daily from 10 to 5 pm throughout the summer.