Abstract landscape painting of a river on a white wall

Susan Murrell: Sift / Shift

June 24, 2023 - October 29, 2023

Lightcatcher Building

Abstract mixed media painting of a river coming out of a white wall and onto a gray floor with colored sand.

Susan Murrell; Sift / Shift (detail), 2023. Image courtesy of the artist.

Susan Murrell’s works are meditations on passageways, life transitions, and the constancy of matter. In the summer of 2023, she will create a site-specific installation specific to the Museum’s Lightcatcher gallery. The immersive work employing sand, painting, and sculptural elements will explore our very human proclivity to be co-creators of the landscape as we assign value to materials, excavate and harvest, delineate, and build. The artist states, “We live in a place where various cultures have long negotiated a beautiful, fertile, and difficult landscape in hopes it will sustain us. I’m interested in how the prevalent philosophies and priorities of our time sculpt the physical environment and how this place is more porous, interconnected, and transitory than we often realize.”

Susan Murrell; Sift / Shift (detail), 2023. Image courtesy of the artist.

Murrell’s work also explores how our concept of landscape has changed through technology. The visible horizon traditionally defined our relationship to the world; now, with our expanding perspective, we feel a kinship with microscopic images and aerial views of planets. Vestiges of built environments, architecture, or even scientific illustration have been added to our visual vernacular and create a sense of place for us. Our bodies are quite literally composed of recycled matter from the stars. We are reshuffled molecules. In this context, Murrell considers herself a landscape painter.

Murrell has been awarded residencies at programs such as Yaddo, Ragdale, Arteles in Finland, and Westfjords in Iceland. She has exhibited at Siena Heights University, Boise State University, Schneider Museum of Art, Carnation Contemporary, and Portland State University, among others. Her works are in the University of Oregon and the United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division collections, and she is currently a Professor of Art at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon.

This exhibition is supported by funds from the Oregon Arts Commission. Additional funding is provided by The Ford Family Foundation and Eastern Oregon University, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, Jean Andresen, and The City of Bellingham.

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.