Madelyn Murphy artwork

The art is in the journey

Barnstable High School senior Madelyn Murphy looks back fondly on one particular assignment she completed for her art class. For the assignment, she and her classmates spent a day out on Sandy Neck, gathering inspiration for a response piece they would each create. “I remember it was so meditative,” Murphy says. “I was sitting under a tree, doing a charcoal sketch of the marsh. It was so beautiful and so serene.”

She spent the next few weeks working on the piece, changing her mind “a million different times” about the direction she wanted to go in. She inadvertently created tatters of shredded paper on the painted canvas, a happy accident that she says made the piece even better than she anticipated, and by the time she was finished, she saw how the piece reflects the dichotomy of how she felt that day on the beach versus everyday life. “The piece itself is a bit monochromatic, and the color palette in that sense gives it a calm feeling. And then the piece as a whole is so all over the place with mixed media and torn paper, and that reflects the overthought and introspectiveness of it—how scatter-brained I am.”

For Murphy, art is liberating—her creativity allows her to embrace who she is, and who she’s becoming. “My art reflects who I am as a person and my innermost thoughts and feelings and experiences,” she says. “I feel like my ‘art,’ as a term, transcends the visual arts, and transcends my portfolio. It’s more the ideas I present, how I present myself every day as a person, and the freedom in all of that—in knowing you can decide who you want to be and what you want to stand for and what you want to say every single day.”

That freedom Murphy experiences through her art can also be seen in her choice of medium—rather, mediums. She says she loves experimenting with charcoal, acrylic and watercolor paint, pen and ink, and collage, and seeing how they can juxtapose one another and what that conveys. “I try to be different,” she says. “I try to be counterintuitive and unexpected, because that’s who I am as a person.”

As she considers her future, Murphy says she doesn’t necessarily want to be an artist in the traditional sense. “I want to be more of a creative figure,” she says, “and contribute to society in a more purposeful, hands-on way.”

See more of Madelyn Murphy’s work at @madelynmurph on Instagram.