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Boardman native elected to create art for Manifest Hope: D.C. Gallery

By Denise Dick

Monday, January 19, 2009

By Denise Dick

Michael Murphy’s pieces represent health care reform, workers’ rights and a green economy.

His fifth-grade art teacher first noticed Michael Murphy’s artistic ability, now garnering national attention for the 1993 Boardman High School graduate.

Murphy, 33, who lives in Georgia, was commissioned to create three pieces for the Manifest Hope: D.C. Gallery exhibit that began Saturday and runs through today. The exhibit marks President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

According to the Manifest Hope Web site, the gallery celebrates art’s role in creating cultural momentum and “shines a spotlight on artists who use their voices to amplify and motivate the grass-roots movement that carried President-Elect Barack Obama to victory.”

Murphy created three pieces for the event: One represents health care reform, one workers’ rights and the third, green economy.

After receiving the call from the show organizer, Murphy worked quickly to create the pieces.

“The one for a green economy is a 24-foot-tall oil rig that’s spouting out a big bouquet of flowers,” Murphy said.

The workers’ rights piece is a painting of a 24-foot-high fist raised in the air.

The health care reform artwork is a 16-by-16-by-8-foot mobile with 120 graphic images of people, ambulances and other health-related symbols suspended from it.

“From one vantage point, you can see a giant red cross,” Murphy said.

He’s also met several people who are close with the president-elect.

“I think I’ve met the entire transition team,” he said.

Murphy, an assistant professor at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga., has created several portraits of Obama in various media, beginning during the campaign. One uses the shadows cast by 6,400 nails to form the likeness of the incoming 44th U.S. president. He created another portrait of Obama using high-tension wire.

Murphy earned his bachelor of fine arts from Kent State University and a master of fine arts from the Art Institute of Chicago.

But his mother, Linda Murphy, who lives in Ravenna, said her son’s artistic talent started early.

When Murphy was in fifth grade at Glenwood Middle School, his art teacher, Charlene Galose, told his mother that he was going to be an artist.

“They had to do a poster for stop, drop and roll [fire safety], and Michael’s had the person rolling halfway out of the picture,” Linda Murphy said. “She said he was going to be an artist.”

Galose also remembers Murphy.

“When you are a teacher and have hundreds and hundreds of students go by you, every so often you have a student who will show a particular talent,” she said.

Murphy was one of those students.

“I remember his pencil drawings of action figures, and he was serious about it, but I don’t think he knew how talented he was,” the teacher said.

Galose didn’t realize Murphy had pursued an art career until reading an article about his Obama nail portrait in The Vindicator in November.

“I was so pleased and so proud,” she said.

denise_dick@vindy.com