Over the past few weeks I’ve worked on a painting that actually started back in the 1990s.  I was making fabric sculptures and dolls then and was part of a show at the University of Memphis Gallery, along with other fabric artists.  They made a nice catalog so I still have a good picture of it.  I created a doll that honored the African American soldiers that had been maimed by war.

soldier doll 2
My last name was Allen then.

I made these strange dolls and sculptures until about 7 years ago, when I moved to an apartment that was too small to collect all the fabric, wire and materials I felt I needed to create them.   I did them by hand, and all that sewing with big needles through thick layers was taking its toll on my hands.  I then took up drawing and painting.  I also felt somewhat limited by what I could do with fabric in creating gestures, complexity, and backgrounds. But some of the ideas I had are still with me, and this soldier has stayed on my mind.

My son and I are having an art show in a very large space at Crosstown Arts, on March 3, 4-8 p.m. (430 N Cleveland).  The size of the walls has inspired us to work on larger surfaces, so I embarked on painting the largest canvas I’ve worked on so far, 24″ x 48″.

I started by painting it red, because I wanted a hot, vibrant color to peek through the brush strokes here and there.


I was able to do more with the figure and build on the idea of transformation, integrating more of nature into it.  I wanted to illustrate the ideas of being rooted with the sadness of losing mobility.  I followed my instincts as I created the painted.

I’m a table painter, rather than an easel painter, and this involved a lot of turning the painting at different angles
I got the basic shapes down and then built layers of color and defining details
My final background color was phthlo blue (green shade) mixed with white, sanded here and there.
Soldier Lost his Legs and Grew Strong as a Tree, by Joy Murray (Sorry the photo isn’t as crisp as I’d like)




I thought a lot about the word lost pertaining to the loss of limbs.  In Soldier’s hair, I worked in the phrase “I didn’t lose them, they were stolen.”  War steals so much from us all.



When I started this, I expected Soldier’s expression to be angrier, but I couldn’t quite get him to scowl.  There is anger, yes, but more strength and more of a sense of the divine.

I’ve always thought that God is among us — not in the churches, necessarily, but in the people around us, those not posing as divine but who are illuminating the dark corners of everyday life

Thanks for reading my blog.


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