LA GRANDE — Eastern Oregon University art professor Susan Murrell is one of 18 Pacific Northwest artists whose work is on display at the "Making a Better Painting" exhibition in Portland.
"When I discovered all the PNW artists who would be involved, from the organizers to the other exhibiting painters, I knew it would be a worthwhile event," Murrell said. "Over the years I have followed the work of many of the artists showing, so it was an honor to be included. Maintaining connections and community with artists whose work is engaging and challenging is really important to me."
The Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis and Clark College is hosting the exhibit until March 15. Murrell joins artists from Seattle, Portland and Walla Walla in the show and is the lone artist from Eastern Oregon. She contributed "Tipping Point," a blend of watercolor, acrylic and vinyl paints on multiple panels that reach 8 feet high tall, 14 feet wide and spills onto the floor into a drawing of sand. Murrell said the inspiration for this piece came from the universal and personal process of experiencing presence through absence.
"I feel like we are in a moment where the phrase 'Tipping Point' can be interpreted as a line we are crossing that we cannot come back from, or that we are on the edge of a shift in consciousness and consequently real change," she explained. "In general, I am exploring how our concept of landscape has shifted through technology, specifically now in light of the climate crisis."
Murrell said she is pleased to have her work on display. She said she never considers a piece truly finished until it has the chance to spark conversation.
"I really value participating in thematic group exhibitions," she said. "They have an ability to contextualize what I am making and create connections with artists who are working with similar ideas, aesthetics or processes."
While teaching painting, printmaking, drawing and capstone courses at Eastern in La Grande, Murrell said it is important for her to have exhibition experience to share the professional world and share that experience of vulnerability with her students.
"I don't know what effect it has," she said, "but my gut says it is important that they see me creating work and participating in the wider arts community."
"Making a Better Painting" also includes a symposium March 6 and 7 concerning contemporary painting in connection with this exhibition. Murrell will be speaking on the panel, "Vital Matter: Painting in the Anthropocene."