James Murray


James Murray, Breezy, reclaimed wood sculpture

James Murray, Twisted, Reclaimed Pine, 7 x 16"

James Murray, Twisted, Reclaimed Pine, 7 x 16″

James Murray, a captain with a master 100-ton license who has been sailing to the Vineyard for more than twenty years, is well acquainted with the power of Mother Nature.

Mr. Murray, whose work is on display at the Louisa Gould Gallery this summer, has three interrelated series, the “storm series,” the “house series,” and the “home equity series,” all partially inspired by the weather, and all constructed from salvaged materials.

“The idea came pretty easily,” Mr. Murray said of the storm series, which he says is the result of the last three or four tropical storms to severely impact the United States, most recently, Hurricane Sandy. “The incredible force of nature, the wind, the tide, it’s very impressive to me.”

Mr. Murray finds inspiration in the storms’ damage — in scraps of floating driftwood, materials torn from buildings, or dismantled factories. “I enjoy when timbers have cracks and twists, Mr. Murray said. “If it has a good split, I’m not going to fill it; I want to celebrate it.”

Mr. Murray uses the history of the materials as a “partner” in creating his work. “It leads me into the sculpture,” he said. “There’s a story to tell that I try to pull out.”

One work in the house series, titled High Water, is carved from a piece of cherry tree toppled by Hurricane Sandy. The wood was given to Murray by a friend, who had watched the tree grow on his family’s property for sixty years.

Another house, titled Breezy, leans ever so slightly. It is reminiscent of a tree close to the beach, bent in the direction of the prevailing winds.

Mr. Murray, a carpenter by trade, from a family of carpenters, has fostered a lifelong fascination with homes. “We all have some attachment to homes. It’s such a big part of our lives.” Part of that fascination is an understanding that these structures are temporary, and susceptible to the weather and other elements. The home equity series deals with financial destruction of homes. That series is intended for the outdoors, where it’s left to be shaped by the force of the winds.

In this, there is surrender, a letting go of the places and things we hold dear, to forces out of our control. If and when damage occurs, we embrace it. We build something new from the pieces that remain.

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