0529: Music and Fossils


I’ve noticed on Facebook lately people posting older images – Throwback Thursday it’s called. So this week I begin on a personal note. About twenty or so years ago this young boy attached himself to the violin he’s holding in the picture above. During all these passing years I have been amazed and awed by the commitment he has shown toward that instrument and toward music itself.

He’s twenty-eight now – my son Shaun Balin. And next Wednesday night (June 4, 8 PM Eastern) he will be playing at the Country Music Television Awards – one of those big tv extravaganzas. As part of the house band for the evening, he’ll be playing fiddle, and banjo, and mandolin, and acoustic guitar.


 It’s hard to describe the feelings of pride and goodwill I have for him.



Now some fossils. I’m always trying to find a way to sort out, arrange, and store my ever-increasing piles of fossils – thousands of them – all to no avail. I began to panic the other day, seeing myself for a moment as some hapless hoarder!


But every opportunity to sort through that mess usually results in fresh new images. Rediscovered, reimagined, and reused.


They are gifts that just keep giving.


Sometimes it’s the light.


Sometimes it’s the background.


Sometimes it’s the fresh weathering.


and sometimes it’s simply the wonder of natural design.




In the midst of cleaning and sorting I couldn’t resist the old Kodak film carrier for a couple of favorite objects.



These next three images are the result of my latest trip to the quarry. I found a couple of new areas to explore up there – each providing me with objects different from my usual options:







I was particularly taken by the following quotation, so much so that I felt it worth sharing.

Dalai LamaThanks for the visit.


IMG_1252comp_01_LR_12An abbreviated post today. Between the holiday and deadlines it’s been difficult to get some new shooting into the schedule. Daily rain has hampered the search for the next great fossil find. So I’ll start with a goodbye to the cicadas – at least I think they’re almost gone.

Fortunately, they barely made an appearance of any sort here at my studio. My friends a mile down the road, on the other hand, have been living through some kind of SciFi Hell! Can’t stand outside talking kind of noise. A quick run down there with fossil and drawer and a cast of millions standing by got me this image.


One final reminder about our opening on Friday (July 5):



Opening Reception – Friday, July 5, 2013

6 – 9 PM

 Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF)

169 Ulster Avenue, Saugerties, NY

 Through July 26


_MG_2290_01_LR_10Speaking of SciFi Hell, Cindy and I drove down to the Meadowlands in New Jersey last Saturday. My son Shaun was in town to perform at the New Jersey State Fair. It’s always a treat to see him perform, regardless of venue.

_MG_2345_01_LR_10While he was busy I had time to check out the Fair itself. I’ve been to many state and county fairs across the country and never before had I seen one without animals! I heard that they were having pig races somewhere but nowhere did I find the 4H world in attendance.

_MG_2349_01_LR_10Plenty of fake boardwalk freak show attractions, from The World’s Smallest Woman

IMG_1271_01_LR_10…to Zambora the Gorilla Girl

_MG_2300_01_LR_10…to Frog Girl. Do you see a pattern here? Did we run out of male freaks? Bad taste often accompanies sexism and it seemed that both were in abundance at this Fair.

_MG_2323_01_LR_10Fortunately, I was able to fish something sweet out of the event – a little girl captivated by bubbles on a late Summer afternoon.

_MG_2639_01_LR_10Here was the entire reason for the trip – Shaun Balin on fiddle with American Idol star Lauren Alaina. Fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and backup vocals – hardest working musician I know! It’s always a pleasure to hear you play, Shaun!

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

Subscribe at my homepage artandfossils.wordpress.com


IMG_9859_comb2v4_LR_12Devonian Tablets

Something new from this past week. The coral in the picture above, 385 million years old, sit verso and recto like some ancient codex full of meaning. Sometimes with these objects the closer one looks the more there is to discover. This coral came from just down the road and it sits on metal grates picked out of a burned out factory. Together they speak a language I keep trying to learn.


Speaking of “just down the road”, because this area is so full of fossils I can often find them along the roadside. Simply taking a walk down the country lane where my studio sits can be an exploration in itself. These two were found on a brief stroll the other day.

IMG_9827_01_LR_12 IMG_9835_01_LR_10_______________

Good weather got me out from the computer and I spent a few hours with a large rock that I had visited a few years ago. This became my office/work space on a delightful Spring afternoon.

IMG_9804_01_LR_10 Each layer of the rock provided a variety of fossils, some more intact than others, but each nonetheless full of visual opportunities. The remainder of the images all come from that session.

IMG_9784_01_LR_10 IMG_9782_01_LR_10 IMG_9770_01_LR_10 IMG_9762_01_LR_12 IMG_9816_01_LR_10 _______________

And before I end this post, two points of interest:

I am honored to be this month’s featured artist on the ASCI website. For those not familiar, ASCI stands for Art and Science Collaborations Inc. Founded in 1988 by Cynthia Pannucci, it is an organization (of which I am a member) whose purpose is “…to raise public awareness about artists and scientists using science and technology to explore new forms of creative expression, and to increase communication and collaborations between these fields.”

Anyone interested in the intersection of art and science should pay them a visit.


IMG_3462_01b_LR_12It was a special night tonight. I got to watch my son, Shaun Balin, playing his fiddle live on American Idol. He played and sang background vocals for Lauren Alaina. She sounded great and so did he!! Can’t tell you how proud I am of him – for all he has done so far – and all that is surely yet to come. Great job Pal!


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

Subscribe at my homepage  https://artandfossils.wordpress.com


It was a busy week last week. A break in my son’s schedule allowed for a quick visit to Nashville, a rare treat given his endless touring. But before I get to all that I wanted everyone to know about the latest issue of Kaatskill Life Magazine. The Spring 2012 issue came out while I was away and featured an article entitled “Art Murphy Unearths Ageless Beauty in His Photography.” I’m very thankful to the folks at Kaatskill Life for the eight page spread and interview conducted by Bob Titus (aka the Catskills Geologist). It’s always a treat to see one’s work so nicely displayed. For those not familiar, Kaatskill Life is a quarterly glossy magazine always full of great articles and photography focusing on the Catskills region. Pick up a copy if you’re in the area or order it from Amazon.

And now back to Nashville. My son, Shaun Balin, fiddler extraordinaire, has been calling that town home now for almost five years. And most of that time he’s been on a tour bus or plane, playing venues from arenas to honky tonks. Here’s a pic he sent me from rehearsal the day I left:
Aside from hanging out and catching up, we did manage to find some “culture” – a great show on American Art at the Frist Center – courtesy of the Phillips Collection in D.C. (my favorite museum anywhere!). I got to hear Shaun perform at a local gig (of course he sounded great as always). And we even got in a bit of fossil hunting and hiking.

Some quick research online led me to lists of fossil sites in the Nashville area. The area in general shows evidence of the Ordovician Period (earlier than the Devonian by approximately 50 million years.) We chose to look for a quarry said to be rich in fossils. Directions consisted of nothing more than a street intersection. Sounded like a fine opportunity to explore.

One of the interesting aspects of the web is that time may advance, but web pages can sit out there forever, making outdated pages (and lists) seem as valid as something posted yesterday! Well, we found the intersection – all four corners were occupied by churches and mini-malls (I actually believe that churches by far outnumber mini-malls, maxi-malls, and just about everything else down there. Ah, nearer my god to thee!) On closer inspection we noticed a solid rock wall that wrapped around two sides of a Verizon store. The store had been dropped right into the corner of the (obviously) long abandoned quarry. A ten foot wide corridor between the two proved to be our proper destination. So we picked and poked and found some interesting Ordovician fossils (brachiopods primarily). I even brought some home.

Right in the middle of urban hustle and bustle, far different from my beloved Kaaterskill Creek, we found abundant proof of life 450 million years ago – probably much to the chagrin of the many evangelical churches that surround what’s left of an old quarry. And here’s the proof:

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

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