The role of the hand and the origin of materials play important roles in Rebecca Murtaugh’s thinking, as gesture and touch are important in her process. These attributes impart the sculptures with immediacy and subtlety in telluric materials formed in geologic time. Transformation is foundational in her work, whether her abstract ceramic sculptures are created solely with her own hands or in concert with the hand of the machine through digital tools and methods. The final surfaces of these sculptures that have been pinched, paddled, burrowed, or extruded are typically vibrant, heavily textured, and mysterious.
“Duality is at the core of my approach between art and science and the handmade and manufactured. Chemistry and geology intersect my studio practice, which has been influenced by my study of science as an undergraduate. This duality further fuels my approach to considering form and generative studio processes while embracing both geometric and organic structure within the language of my work. While I often set parameters to guide the development of a series or body of work, intuition continues to play a significant role in consideration of texture, form, scale, and color.”
Titles carry important information and help develop meaning in Murtaugh’s work. Sculptures are titled two-fold, they are first descriptive with a prefix of their dominant physical characteristic accompanied by the name of the glaze utilized. Works such as “Pinch and Burrow” and “Mallet and Burrow” reference the action imparted to construct those works; they can be interpreted as vessels, with references to the body often with apertures that act as a lens. Murtaugh furthers these pairings by creating interesting juxtapositions of color. Color elicits feeling; it is about desire. It has symbolic meaning and psychological weight.
About the Artist
Rebecca Murtaugh earned a Master of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Bachelor of Science from Pennsylvania State University, and attended Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in venues such as Pentimenti Gallery, The High Line, Trestle Gallery, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Underdonk, Frist Center for Visual Art, Everson Museum, Hunterdon Art Museum, Delaware Contemporary, Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1708 Gallery, Baltimore Clayworks, and the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Murtaugh’s work has been included in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, American Craft, The New Criterion, BUST, and Bushwick Daily. She splits her time between Patchogue and Clinton, New York where she is the John and Anne Fischer Professor of Fine Art at Hamilton College.