We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Murphy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leslie, why did you pursue a creative career?
Choosing an artistic career was never a question for me. For as long as I can remember, I only wanted to be an artist. Making art has always been a compulsion. I need to do it for the sake of my own well being, as well as to share the joy of creativity with others. I am compelled to keep exploring the endless possibilities of art making. It is never boring. There is always something new to explore either conceptually or technically.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As an artist, I am most proud of my portrait series honoring victims of gun violence. I created 35 portraits for families who lost loved ones to gun violence. Each portrait was drawn entirely of text describing who each person was. The idea was to put the opposite of hate, violence, and destruction into the world in response to America’s never ending problem with gun violence. The opposite of hate is love. The opposite of violence is peace. The opposite of destruction is creation. In reaching out to families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, I hoped to show them love and kindness from a complete stranger, while at the same time helping to bring them a small measure of peace through artistic collaboration, and to create meaningful artwork in remembrance of those who have been lost to the senseless destruction caused by guns and desperation. I began reaching out to online gun violence survivor groups, and through gunmemorial.org, I was able to connect with several families who wished to have their loved ones memorialized through these collaborative portraits. The participating families provided photos and text that told me about their loved one, and the many reasons they were special. Through collaboration and making these portraits, I hoped to bring families and communities together to remember who each person was, what their life meant to their loved ones, and to bring humanity back into the conversation about gun violence, and what is truly at stake. These people were not just sad statistics. They had dreams, they had families, and are worthy of being remembered for who they were as individuals, and not just how their lives were ended. These efforts were a drop in the bucket to be sure, but each person who views these portraits will get a glimpse of someone who, if not for a gun, would still be here. Viewers hopefully gained a sense of the gravity of each life lost, and motivation to help effect positive change surrounding this issue.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Current circumstances and quarantine aside, I would take a friend to midtown, Atlanta to enjoy the sights. We’d start on the Atlanta beltline to view all of the amazing murals and public art on display, then make our way to Ponce City Market for some tasty food and shopping. Before we left we would hit the rooftop amusement park to play. Next we would skip over to the High Museum and check out the current exhibit and explore the entire museum and grounds. The next day we would visit Six Flags over GA, because roller coasters! Over the next few days we’d hit some small town treasures such as Downtown Duluth, and Lilburn Square for some quality dining and to support local businesses. I would also have to take them to the Johns Creek Arts Center for one of the outstanding workshops frequently offered there as well as the current art exhibition. I would also try and squeeze in a visit to Fernbank Museum as it never disappoints.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to the faculty of the Atlanta College of Art. I learned so much during my college years, and those were some of the happiest times of my life. My teachers at ACA challenged me, inspired me, and helped me to develop confidence as an artist. I was (and continue to be) humbled my their outstanding artwork, guidance and patience. I can never fully express my gratitude to them for helping me grow as an artist, and as an adult. Besides honing my drawing and painting skills and learning how to use a variety of media and techniques, I learned so much about how to bring my art from concept to completion, and how to better articulate my ideas visually. I’d also like to dedicate this shoutout to my painting students at Johns Creek Arts Center, who continue to inspire me every day. My students are always a joy to work with, and I am so thankful to help them on their artistic journeys.
All images copywrite Leslie Murphy