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Art Watch : Gwen Murphy

Gwen Murphy is in focus for our Art Watch for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.


We love art and we love artists for the immense possibilities that they bring to the world. Each of the artists whom we engage and interact with have an amazing quality. They look deeply into the heart of a matter and find within it meaning. It takes courage to be an artist and put a piece of one’s mind into the world.

What would you be thinking of if you saw a pair of shoes? Would one stop and consider that they had a soul or a thought – but artist Gwen Murphy does. Ever since Gwen was a little girl she was fascinated by shoes. To the child’s imagination, it looked as though the shoes were staring back at her. Moreover, each pair was invested with its own character and personality. Depending on the model and how worn out the pairs were, she attributed characteristics to them. Sometimes they were sleepy, other times broody or angry, some even looked like they were happy and singing. In fact, Murphy saw them as a species of beings made entirely from pairs of identical twins. Also, the appeal that she had, stayed with her all the way through adulthood.

Why Gwen Murphy?

As an artist she now actively collects pairs of worn out shoes. She doesn’t give them a personality but brings out their personality, thereby literally giving them a face. She is a multimedia artist and uses different materials. These include ash, clay and acrylic paint to create bugged-out eyes, long faces and pouting lips. Gradually transforming each pair into a unique face that expresses its unique character. Popular Indian slippers carry an exotic look. While wooden clogs look blissful and primitive, and high heel shoes have somewhat of an arrogant look.

“What makes an artist’s work her own, what makes it compelling, is the time spent making it, developing it, year after year. There is no substitute for putting in the hours at your studio. If you put in the time, you can not fail to come up with something that is truly your own.” Says the artist who has worked hard to create a niche for her brand of art and sculpture and a voice for herself as well as her subjects.

Murphy graduated with a BA in Fine Arts/Sculpture from New College of Florida in 1985. She received her Master of Fine Arts from Boston University College of Fine Arts in 1990.

Gwen Murphy’s ongoing project titled SHOE FETISH, is where she takes worn out or abandoned/donated shoes and transforms them into sculptural works of art.

Murphy’s Inspiration

Explaining why she named her company so – Murphy says : “A fetish is an object believed to have magical powers to protect or aid its owner I see a shoe as a kind of fetish, because it has a presence, and the power to protect and transport us. Since I was a very young child I have looked at shoes and found them looking back at me, each pair with its particular personality and facial expression. When shoes are lined up near a door or in a closet, they are trusty steeds, waiting to serve. Mouths yawning open, they sometimes look sleepy, grouchy, or fierce; sometimes they look like they are singing. They are like a species of beings made entirely of pairs of identical twins. This series of sculptures is my way of bringing forth the presence I see in each pair of shoes.”


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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