020818: Stranger Things (Rock Version)

While putting images together for an upcoming project I ran across the opening image of plant fossils that seems to have an almost calligraphic feel to it – a sort of written signage from Nature itself! All of today’s images come from days of shooting several years ago during the summer following Hurricane Irene. The tumult from the flooding tore apart Schoharie Creek and uncovered many amazing things. Some of the images are plant fossils (with a few marine invertebrates if you look closely), some are very strange looking rocks and markings, and some are a total mystery to me.

Funny how so many of these images seem more alien than all of last week’s post – seemingly earthlike landscapes of Mars!













Thanks for the visit.


0122: Back to Gilboa


Early mornings have been cold up here lately. The cold wakes you up in a hurry. The air is clear and crisp. If you dress properly for it, it can be a joy to behold. It can also reward with sights like the opening image – dawn light touching the eastern edge of the Catskills.


Too cold to be out digging in the quarry! So, as I usually do this time of year, I dive into my photo libraries, viewing old images anew, particularly those I skipped over originally. The image above is a brachiopod sitting atop a few junkyard props.


This next group was the result of several trips to Gilboa in the year following Hurricane Irene. The flooding churned up creek beds, yielding all kinds of wonders – not least of which was my very own encounter with a Gilboa tree stump!


What follows are rocks containing tree root and branch fossils, as well as various trace fossils and other patterning and colors. In size, they range from one to four feet across. I hope you enjoy them.























Last – a pic from a trip the other day to the town of Narrowsburg NY, dropping off for a show next month.

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Thanks for the visit. Stay warm!






0904: Back to the Creek


A mid-afternoon spike in the temperature got me out of the studio and down to the creek where a cool breeze relaxed and revived me. As I sat there, luxuriating in Mother Nature’s nearest cooling station, I stared upstream, remembering what it looked like when I first moved here.


The steps of rock that were (and are) streambed were visually unblemished. This picture was taken during Spring of 2011, months before Hurricane Irene.


This is what followed (and remains today). Not better or worse, to my way of thinking, just the reality of ever changing landscape. In this case, loose rock was transported from upstream by the force of the water. And now, with the water level low, I could step across the loose rock and get a close look at what had been deposited. Surely I could find a fossil or two, I thought.


Actually, many more than two…


These come from rocks I found during the first few minutes of looking.


And so I have more reason now to hang out at the creek. This is going to the office for me!



I have a new series I’d like to share with you. Now that my “Abstract/Concrete” show is about to come down (this is its last weekend) it’s time to further explore this world of color and design.


I’m calling this series The Swarm. It’s at a very early stage right now. Some images may seem redundant or duplicative. But for now I’m exploring the many different ways these subjects can frame.


So, with that in mind, I hope you enjoy them.IMG_4432_01_LR_10













I can’t resist good graffiti. Something to ponder until next week. Thanks for the visit.

0828: Random Notes

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A beautiful summer afternoon took us out for a drive that eventually led to Gilboa. It had been two years since I had been there. I knew that the Gilboa Museum would be closed (it was a Monday afternoon). But with country as beautiful as it is up through Greene and Schoharie Counties, we knew the ride would be fun no matter what.


I also knew we could check out the fossils laying outside the museum. The opening image is a large tree base, Eospermatopteris, from the famous Gilboa Forest. Picture two, above, which I just posted recently, is part of a smaller base that I had found previously.


These two samples of Devonian plant life got me thinking about how the recent “abstract/concrete” work I did can well relate to these type of fossil images.

IMG_4216_01_LR_12The markings, the linear compositions…they all really fit that previous project. I think I am beginning to see the greater pattern!


Last from our Gilboa stop is this gnarly fossil, a rather incredible fossil – part of the tree – found by Ms Kristen Wychoff. An interesting story accompanies it (click here).



Ms Wychoff’s discovery occurred alongside a nearby creek – “stream mitigation” is what it’s known as – where streams needed to be shored up following Hurricane Irene (which, by the way, occurred exactly three years ago) and large rocks were used as fill. These three images resulted from us making a similar stop on our way back.


More markings – some from heavy equipment…


…and some from the rocks themselves.



Here are a few odds and ends, the first of which comes from my recent sandstone find – a healthy variety of fossils create this vignette.


And here are two more from a quick run to the local quarry – both as visually primordial as they are in fact!




While color has been playing an important role in many of my most recent images, I still have a thing for black and white. This latest version of a favorite fossil was, I am sure, motivated by my fascination with the artist Renee Magritte and his painting “The Castle of the Pyrenees.”



My good friend and fellow photographer, Michael Nelson, dropped by bau Gallery last weekend and left this portrait in his wake. Thanks, Mike!


Two more weekends left before the show comes down. Beacon should be a fine destination over this upcoming Labor Day weekend. Drop by if you can.






0829: Art and Science

IMG_2677_01_LR_12That’s what’s been on my mind lately – Art & Science. Actually, that pair, along with its many confluence points, often occupies my thoughts. These days in particular it is taking on a slightly different edge. I have been asked to give a talk in a few weeks following my opening at the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy. What more appropriate topic might there be for me to discuss than Art & Science. And what could I possibly add that hasn’t already been said on the subject? In Florence, of all places, home of the Medici!

IMG_2655_01_LR_10While it’s familiar territory for me to explore, while much of my reading slides back and forth between the two, I seldom have the opportunity to discuss the topics. So, as I begin to prepare and compose my thoughts for this upcoming talk, I’ve been having conversations with friends – artists, scientists, and others – asking their thoughts on everything from the relationship (if any) between the two, to the contrasts and/or commonalities they might share. It’s been refreshing, eye-opening at times, and always a springboard to further discussion and creative exploration. I would welcome any reader of this blog to feel free to comment on the subject of Art & Science – I’d like to hear your  thoughts – any and all are welcome.


IMG_2232_01_LR_10Underneath that big beautiful cloud sits Canada. That’s as close as we came to the border on our trip to Isle La Motte last week. Aside from the time spent hanging the show and attending a couple of events we were free to explore. I love those opportunities – you never know what might be around the next bend, whether it’s a simple landscape…

IMG_2192_01_LR_12…or something of odd historic significance – in this case a memorial to the construction of ICBM missiles.


Frank Zappa once sang about moving to Montana to become a “dental floss tycoon” –  growing fields full of dental floss (Frank at his prime)!! So I had to conjure him up when I ran across fields of giant marshmallows along Lake Champlain.


And then there was the Arnold Zlotoff Tool Museum on South Hero Island.

IMG_2508_01_LR_10More than 3000 old hand tools of every shape and design – free admission – all from the collection of a former New York City teacher of Industrial Arts.

IMG_2506_01_LR_10I found structures with interesting exteriors…

IMG_2245_01_LR_10…and others with tourist trap levels of tackiness…

IMG_2355_01_LR_!2(And, yes, they all had price tags on them!)


My current tree obsession continues. Here are two more from the east side if Isle La Motte.

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Lastly, on the second anniversary of Hurricane Irene, I wanted to share this image.

IMG_1424_01_LR_10Rushing water ripped through the ground cover that day, exposing the foreground rock in a number of places at the home of friends. The exposed rock (filled with Devonian coral, by the way) has become incorporated into the landscape, providing additional beauty to this “Monet-like” landscape.

More images at www.artmurphy.com

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The Gilboa Museum

Last month I visited the Gilboa Museum for its annual open house. I had been to the previous event and thoroughly enjoyed it – a wonderful celebration of small town America and local pride. The Museum itself, while originated and run by local volunteers, is not simply of local importance. Despite its limited hours of operation (mostly on weekends in the Summer), a quick look at the guestbook shows the many visitors and the surprising distances traveled. Gilboa in fact is known internationally.

In 1870, quarry workers discovered fossilized remains of tree stumps nearby. The geology community has long been aware of those findings. But it was very recently that discoveries have led to the charting of the oldest known forest floor anywhere. People come from all over to see the fossils and gain an understanding of the significance of the area. And were it not for the local volunteers, all the visitors would find is a quiet country road. The locals have much to be proud of and the Museum is a fine representation of that.

To me, the best part of the visit is always the fossil exhibit. Many more fossils have been added since last year. Hurricane Irene stirred the ground and has uncovered many new and interesting fossils. In fact, the fossils on display (most from the immediate area) are donations from friends and neighbors. Put all together, they form a unique and excellent collection that would make any major museum jealous!

So, let’s just look at some of the gems of the collection.











Although the Museum is small, it is packed with fossils and artifacts of local life from the past. The final image shows the wonderful centerpiece of the displays. It is a painting that illustrates what is believed to be the area during the Devonian Period when the local forest thrived. Based on the most recent discoveries, this stunning painting was produced by the multitalented Ms Kristen Wycoff, who runs herd over this operation.

Ms Wycoff, it turns out, is as much a local treasure as the fossils themselves. If you visit, you will probably run into her. She is a most genial and well informed ambassador for all the good folks of Gilboa.

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

On Impermanence

I made mention last week of a tree out back of my studio, affectionately known as “The Emperor.” A beautiful old Red Oak, it stood above all the others at the base of my fossil-laden hill. And its demise was what led me back to that same hill, reacquainting myself with its treasures. The tree, yet another belated victim of Hurricane Irene, finally toppled thanks to recent strong winds. I’d love to show a picture of it but can’t find one anywhere. Didn’t ever even think about taking one – the Emperor had been there forever and probably would remain so. And all I can hear in the back of my mind is Joni Mitchell singing “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

Roughly six feet or so in diameter at its base, it held a commanding presence. On its side now it exposed a massive root system – gnarled and tangled roots both large and small. No surprise that I would find some fossil rocks within that mass of roots – they were here much earlier! In fact, this misguided notion of physical permanence – this somewhat hubristic idea that all we see around us was forever and forever will be – is easily countered by the mere presence of these fossils. For when they thrived some 400 million years ago this ground was the bed of an inland sea. Even better, what is here now was, at that time, somewhere well south of the Equator! So much for permanence.

Back now to the more recent past. As I was poking around at the base of the tree I kept finding glass and pottery shards and other various and weathered man-made objects. It so happens that this property was once a summer camp. It began sometime in the early 1900s and ended fifty years ago. And off in the woods, away from the main camp buildings, were pits dug for burning and/or burying garbage. Further digging through that immediate area led me to find other artifacts.

This juxtaposition of objects, some from the recent past and some from a most distant past, seem to fit right in with my ongoing Devonian Drawer project. All heaving up from the ground around me, these various objects speak to the whole nature of impermanence, that nothing stays the same, and that the only constant we can rely upon is change.

A number of recent postings displayed some examples of this match-up. Here are a few more:

Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

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A New Year Begins

This was the first pic of the new year – early morning with the eastern escarpment of the Catskills playing hide and seek behind the low clouds. With the holidays behind us I decided to revisit some earlier image folders, just to see whatever might have been inadvertently forgotten. Given the richness of fossils found in this immediate area it’s easy for some fine prospects to fall to the bottom of the pile, thus being deprived of the camera’s gaze. So , before moving on, I chose to revisit my recent crinoid finds.

I wrote a few weeks back about my “crinoid encounter” and posted some of the early images. Turns out there was a lot more there – a lot more to play with visually. All the circular crinoid “ossicles” created such interesting patterns. So, rather than using some of my standard backgrounds, I decided to match pattern with pattern.

The pattern behind the crinoid laden rocks is another rock full of Lower Devonian coral – syringopora, to be specific. It’s not uncommon around here. I have found outcroppings of several square feet in numerous locations near Kaaterskill Creek. And while it somewhat commonplace I am always amazed at its appearance.

It has even found its way into my ongoing “Devonian Drawer” project. I have three more of those to share (from the pre-holidays period – there are many more to come.) The first image relates directly to Hurricane Irene (see earlier post). Both objects were uncovered by the powerful flooding that ripped through this area and so much of the Northeast. Large amounts of the coral were exposed when the rushing water tore loose the foot or so of ground covering rock formations down the road. And the brush was a tiny bit of the detritus moved to a new place.

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Thank you for the visit. More images at www.artmurphy.com