Today we welcome Kelly Sheppard Murray to the podcast. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with Kelly and her community when I exhibited my work at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Kelly got her BFA in Art Education and Sculpture from UNCG and an MFA from East Carolina University. Now, She is based in Raleigh with her husband and teen child and is an Associate Professor at Wake Technical College. Her biomorphic sculptural groupings have been exhibited at Charlotte Russell Contemporary and VAE in Raleigh, and Wilma Daniel Gallery in Wilmington North Carolina in solo exhibitions.
Kelly starts our discussion by sharing that she always wanted to be an artist, but just didn’t have the language to express her hopes and dreams as a child. She did, however, look to her father who worked in the newspaper business as an inspiration for sharing a visual practice with an audience. She would see him in action taking photographs, and then later get to see those images out in the world in the newspaper. She goes on to share that she had a very supportive undergraduate art school experience, and when she took her first 3D class, it just felt like home.
Now, Kelly creates small shapes and forms, usually made with wire mesh, and coats them with colorful encaustic wax. Then, she takes these fairly small pieces and clusters them in groups of 50 or 100 to create stunning installations. We discuss how she transforms industrial material into something that feels more natural or irregular. I love how she frames her work as a “sweet spot between painting and sculpture” as she investigates how color plays with form.
I’m so inspired by how Kelly makes smart choices to get such impactful results. We talk about how she was one of the few women in her sculpture programs, and how she felt empowered by creating small units that she could move, manipulate, and carry all on her own. Working small allowed her to adapt to motherhood and also the hardships of the pandemic. We discuss how a daily challenge to make a sculpture every day propelled her to where she is now in her practice.
I have a special bond with Kelly, in that we both transformed garage spaces into a studio space. I loved sharing the joys and challenges of using this type of typically domestic space for our practices, and discussing her brilliant system for making work in a tight space that goes on to take up so much visual space in a gallery. Her organization doesn’t end there, she describes how she timeblocks, and works with her husband and child to make sure her studio time is protected while also being flexible to consider everyone’s needs.
Biggest Art Crush: Lynda Benglis, Lydia Barlow, Beatriz Milhazes, Jill Lavine, and Julia Bloom
Dream Trip: Eastern Europe – Helsinki or Amalfi Coast
Film or book: Anne Truit, Daybook
Favorite meal: Pizza or BLT
Shoutout: Husband, Child, Mother, and longtime friend Wendy Burgess
To see more of Kelly’s work please visit her website and follow her on IG @kellysheppardmurray_art
The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn