Devil May Care

Shayne Murphy revisits history’s grandest angels and demons in a series of new works.

Michael_detail_01

In the Book of Revelation, Saint Michael the Archangel leads the forces of God in a battle against evil, and singlehandedly slays “the dragon” Satan. Houston artist Shayne Murphy reimagines this Biblical showdown in his show Ignis Fatuus, on view at Anya Tish Gallery Nov. 16-Dec. 15, in all of its phantasmagoric horror — but with a contemporary twist: A handsome, blonde haired woman stands in for Saint Michael, poised to plunge a long spear into the dragon modeled by Murphy’s lovely wife Casey, whose limp, bat-like wings and outstretched fingertips signify defeat, and a plea for forgiveness. But why is Ms. Saint Michael wearing a pair of lace-up sneakers?


“I wanted to inject something to counter balance these very heavy themes of good and evil,” says the 37-year-old Murphy, who was raised Catholic, but except for major holidays, rarely attended mass. Several paintings in Ignis Fatuus (which means “foolish fire” in Latin) began with photographs of Casey and their friend Anne Simpson, who were tasked to pose as saints and devils found in Judeo-Christian mythology as portrayed by artists of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. “The sneakers were in the photograph I took,” explains Murphy. “And I thought, just leave it. Who cares? It’s 2018.”

Meanwhile, Murphy’s oil-and-graphite “Drop (Ecstasy of Saint Teresa)” is a trippy take on Bernini’s orgasmic white-marble sculpture, with Casey coolly embodying the object of Saint Teresa’s desire, buoyed by black and purple fluffy clouds. A few toothy, faceless grins straight out of Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel Sandman are thrown in for good measure. “Something supernatural is happening,” says Murphy of the scenario in “Drop.” “But is it imagined, or is it real?”

As in all of his paintings, colors and images are pared down to just the essentials. “I think that’s something I picked up from my years as a graphic designer,” says Murphy, “how to cut through the visual clutter.” Standing in contrast to the show’s colorful, figurative paintings are Murphy’s beautifully rendered “old-school” charcoal drawings, including “Leviathan Surfacing,” in which the sea monster in question remains below the water’s surface, while plumes of ocean spray herald its imminent arrival.

With his second solo show of paintings and drawings now complete, Murphy’s next project will be illustrating a children’s book, written by Casey, about a school-age girl who discovers she can magically travel to the worlds described in her favorite books. He laughs when it’s suggested the story isn’t so far removed from that of Saint Teresa, or the battles between good and evil depicted in Ignis Fatuus. And while Murphy prefers to describe himself as a “spiritual” as opposed to “religious,” he acknowledges the significance religious art has had on his evolution as an artist, and as a human being.

“With this body of work, I’m definitely not trying to proselytize or diminish anyone’s relationship to their faith,” says Murphy. “It’s more about the stories that carry on all throughout our history in some shape or form, and revisiting the things that got me interested in drawing and painting.”

Art+Culture

AN INTERVIEW WITH Henry Richardson, CEO & founder of DEFINE Body & Mind3

How did you adapt in these unprecedented times? Ahhh. Deep breath. Just thinking about those early days of the shutdown makes my heart palpitate. All of us at DEFINE had quite the shift happen in 2020, and honestly, it started off brutal. I don't think I slept for roughly 72 hours in those early days of the shutdown. In order to stay relevant, we launched both our DEFINE On-Demand service and our DEFINE Livestream classes. We wanted to move as quickly as possible to ensure our clients had the ability to take classes with their memberships.

Keep Reading Show less

"IT'S LIKE 2012, but times 20," muses a masked Tyler Price, 30, citing the apocalyptic film as he describes the year he and his bandmates, guitarist and vocalist Jose Sanchez, 32, and drummer Allen Edwards, 25, have had. Price provides additional vocals and plays bass guitar and keys in their indie-rock group The Soft Wear. The trio has gathered (six feet apart) on the grounds of the Menil.

In December, the band, which coalesced in 2018 after a series of fruitful jam sessions before playing its first show at an anniversary party for Montrose dive bar Poison Girl, released its self-titled debut album. The nine-track record, mixed and produced by Poison Moon Records' Kirk Campbell, has a feeling that makes one nostalgic for the foregone days of live shows. "The music I wanted us to make was music that feels like you're playing in a basement or at a show," says Sanchez, noting the band used to perform regular live shows at venues like Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge and Continental Club.

Keep Reading Show less
Art + Entertainment

Food from B.B. Italia available from the Galleria-area cloud kitchen dubbed Fair Food Co

THE PAST YEAR has yielded plenty of change within the food and bev industry, and Ben Berg's restaurant empire has not been immune. He's faced shutdowns, slowdowns and natural disasters, and has given back to the community in the midst of it all. And this week, Berg Hospitality Group has three more announcements.

Keep Reading Show less
Food