Close up of a quilt

Keeping in Touch

Shannon Murphy & Kathryn Bennett

October 27-December 10, 2017
Atrium Gallery, Marshall Fine Art Center

Reception: October 27, 5:00-7:00 p.m.

This is a collaborative showing of works by Shannon Murphy (BMC ‘14), Fine Art Department Assistant and her paternal great grandmother Kathryn Bennett.

Shannon Murphy never knew her paternal great-grandmother, Kathryn Bennett, personally. But she got to know her through the handmade embroidered, quilted, and sewn pieces she left behind. An artist herself, and assistant in Haverford’s Fine Arts Department, Murphy was inspired by Bennett’s handcrafts and began trying out her great-grandmother’s traditional folk art techniques in non-traditional ways, using modern materials and her more surrealist eye. A new collaborative show, Keeping in Touch: Shannon Murphy and Kathryn Bennett, in Haverford College’s Atrium Gallery gathers Murphy’s modern abstract pieces alongside Bennett’s antique inspirations.

The exhibit, which opens Oct. 26, is a conversation, of sorts, between Murphy and her great-grandmother. Roughly a dozen of Bennett’s colorful cotton quilts and meticulous needlepoint canvases are shown alongside Murphy’s contemporary responses, which are made of wood and various fabrics and embellished with screen-prints, paint, crochet, lace tatting, weaving, and collage—residing between the visual and the tactual.

“Using the same skills as my great-grandmother becomes a way to honor her memory and connect with myself,” says Murphy. “There is comfort in the tactile nature of the work. Through her practice pieces one can directly view her skills improving and the scale of the pieces increasing. And through considering their construction, we realize that the slowness is inseparable from the language of the material.”

Murphy, like her great-grandmother before her, created her pieces gradually, over time, in her home via a studio practice that emphasized portability, flexibility, and forgiveness. Likewise, both women capture subjects from their everyday lives in their work.

“The nature of these pieces—combining meticulous process with meditation on a memory—is a reminiscence in physical form,” says Murphy. “The slowness of construction and memory are an attempt to explain the complicated relationship between past, present, and future that we are all a part of.”

Shannon Murphy graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2014, and majored in fine arts at Haverford College with a concentration in printmaking. She was born and grew up on the Main Line and resides in West Philadelphia, where she maintains a studio. Her work has been shown at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery and Alcove Gallery and in other galleries in the Philadelphia area. This is Murphy’s first solo exhibition and the first time these works will be shown in the Atrium Gallery.