0701: Enjoy the Holiday Weekend


I’m a day early with this post. The holiday weekend is just about upon us. I hope you have a safe and happy Fourth. Today’s opener you might remember from a few years ago when a group of photographer friends gathered to shoot the annual Saugerties parade (and turned it into a bang-up show the following year). It was especially appropriate to show it again as it was just chosen for a show entitled “War and Peace” at the Darkroom Gallery in Essex Junction, Vermont, opening July 23.



The other day I paid a visit to the Thomas Cole home (National Historic Site) to see a friend. It’s a great place to visit, directly across the Hudson from Olana, home of Frederick Church, once a student of Cole’s. The earliest art movement in American history, the Hudson River School, was born here. And its legacy remains.

Cole was buried just down the road at the Thompson Street Cemetery, a site I have been curious about for a long time. And so, fresh from conversation about Mr. Cole,  I decided to pay a visit to the cemetery. Rain forced me to eventually leave, but not before this little adventure yielded some interesting results


Most of the headstones I saw ran from 1850 to 1900. And many of them were in various stages of disrepair. In fact, more than a few are just neatly piled pieces.







I have often found that trees in cemeteries can have a particularly stately, almost regal, quality. This one is a perfect example. I suppose what impresses me most is that, left undisturbed, they completely rule. Nothing stands in their way. Witness the two small headstones (above) being shoved around by the massive roots. Or the reverse side (below) literally swallowing a large stone.


By the way, I never did find Cole’s grave. I know it’s there  – another good reason to return.



I’m still breaking rocks from my last quarry visit. These first two show broken pieces on my rock breaking surface (a bigger rock)!








Driving back to the studio i passed the neighboring beaver pond – flush with water lilies.

All in all a pretty good day.




I’ll leave you with one last image from the cemetery – one that sticks in the mind.

Thanks for the visit.

0801- Rocks and Trees


Whenever I need a break from the computer, one of my favorite places to “reboot and recharge” is Kaaterskill Creek. It passes within a stone’s throw from my studio (every day is beautiful around here!). The creek has been a subject for artists for the past two centuries from Thomas Cole to the present. No surprise, then, that the creek can revive and refresh body, mind and soul. Yesterday was a bonus day. The local heron was paying a visit at the same time.


A couple of brief notes:

This coming Tuesday, August 6 at 6 PM, I will be speaking at the Saugerties Public Library. The talk will be about what else – Art and Fossils. I’ll try to make it loose and informal. So if you are in the area stop in. I’ll have samples of my work and some of the fossils I have collected.

Something else I must share – my good friends at the Museum of Natural History in Florence have just announced my September show (I still get goosebumps!) This is posted on their website:



I’m just back from my stay atop Platte Clove. I want to thank the Catskill Center once again for their Artist-in-Residency Program (AIR). It was an honor to be allowed to spend time there and I am most grateful. I have a few early images to share today.


The cabin sits directly above Plattekill Falls, a 60 ft. tall beauty whose sounds of rushing, crashing water are a constant (and not unwelcome) companion. I was particularly struck by the creative energy the cabin seemed to engender. Perhaps it was the residue left by the many, talented artists who preceded me. I found myself absorbed creatively in a much different way. I couldn’t sit still! Everything I looked at or even thought about triggered lists of visual possibilities. And I was open to the fresh and new. I wish I could figure out how to bottle that up!


I went up there expecting to photograph rocks. But I was certainly open to whatever “spoke” to me. It’s always a mistake, it seems, to be in new and different surroundings and focus too narrowly. You miss all else that the situation is offering. This time, for whatever reason (and I am sure there are many lurking about), the trees decided to speak up.







The other thing that really struck me was the moss (images to come). And it seems I carried thoughts about it back to my studio. Upon my return, the first thing I noticed, in my rockpiles, was fresh moss on fossils, many of which I had only recently cracked open. So, after 385 million years hidden away, these fossils now have yet another weathering event to experience.










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

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0502 – Old Business and New

IMG_9756_01_LR_12 I was finally able to gather together links to two recent events I have referenced recently. The first is a link to the terrific profile that Mik Horowitz did for the Hudson Valley Almanac. Peering into Deep Time is the title of the article. The full version (PDF with original layout) can be found by clicking on Deep Time in the Nav Bar above. The web version can be found here.

Also, the recent radio interview I did with Ann Cooper is currently archived at WGXC Radio. The full 45 minute interview can be found HERE.


More good news arrived late yesterday. I was informed that I was chosen for the Platte Clove Artists in Residency Program. This is a program sponsored by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. Since 1969, The Catskill Center  has worked to protect the natural resources of the Catskills and promote the economy for communities throughout the Catskill Park, Catskill Mountains and the entire Catskill Region.

Regarding the program, their website states:

The Catskill Center also offers the Platte Clove Artists-in-Residence program – the only one in the country situated in the historic area where the first American school of landscape was initiated in 1825 (The Hudson River School of Painting) by Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Thomas Doughty, Frederic Edwin Church and others who searched the Frederic Church,Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountain Region for untainted wilderness.The Platte Clove cabin sits where mountain and valley meet, providing a tranquil and rustic workplace and retreat for artists working in a variety of disciplines in the living landscape where American art began.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to post some images from a project I did a couple of years ago tying the artists of the Hudson River School to the early geologists who together hiked Platte Clove.

IMG_2701_01b IMG_2734_01a IMG_2745_01b IMG_3123_01b IMG_3137_01b

The above images are from the Thomas Cole House and are part of a collection that belonged to Cole himself. While Platte Clove, as far as I know, has no fossils it does have rock formations and landscape that those early explorers captured in their drawings and paintings. More from my project (with respect to those painters):


IMG_3802_01b Seven days in the cabin atop the Clove. I can’t wait. My great thanks to the Conservancy.



One last note – The Hungry for Music silent auction is scheduled for 4 PM – 7PM on Saturday at Opus 40 in Saugerties. Come out to bid on this print of mine and work by 30 artists – all for a great cause.


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

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2012 Catskill Artists Tour

My humble little studio in late afternoon. It’s an old cabin that sits tucked in the woods off a quiet country road. Kaaterskill Creek, familiar to the Hudson River Painters as well as Rip Van Winkle, turns into stunning waterfalls just through the trees. I tend to refer to this area as “dying and going to heaven.”



In one week, on September 8 and 9, I will be participating in the Fifth Annual Catskill Artist and Gallery Tour. A wonderful and diverse group of artists and galleries will be opening their studios from 11 AM until 5 PM on those two days. Any and all of you readers are most welcome to drop by, see some of my work as well as the many fossils I photograph. It’s a fine time of the year to visit, especially for all of my friends down in NYC. Take a day trip, breathe in some fresh country air and stretch out in a place adopted by artists almost two hundred years ago.




This long tradition – this relationship between artist and the Catskill Area – continues to flower today. The list of artists participating this year is a testament to that. To many of us, the relationship with the local landscape, that experience of nature, seems to take over and direct our work. At the very least, the locale informs and affects out creative processes.




All the images in this post, in fact, both landscape and fossil, were taken within just a few miles of my studio.






From the tour website:

From monster teddy bears made out of barbed wire to space-age yurts with amazing views, from Hudson River villas to restored gallery buildings and renovated churches, our past tours have celebrated some of the most significant talent and amazing locations, private and public, in the region and the state.




Visit the Tour Website for more information, including artists’ profiles and tour map. Maps will also be available at the Thomas Cole House and the GCCA Gallery, both in Catskill.

Also, visit on Facebook.

A Pre-Tour Preview Party will take place at the M Gallery, 350 Main Street in Catskill on Friday evening, Sept. 7.



Next week I’ll be filling you in on some shows I’ll be in that same weekend. Also coming up, I’m getting busy working on fresh images from the Museum of the Earth. The good folks at PRI allowed me back to photograph from their amazing collection. Much to look forward to.

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

Austin Glen

A friend reminded me recently about a story I had run across in the NY Times archives entitled “A Catskill Coral Reef.” Written and published in 1881, it told about Austin Glen and what could be found there. Geologically learned readers (I do not consider myself among them) recognize the name as an important feature of local geology, part of the Taconic Unconformity. Most of the locals think of it as a great swimming hole, well worth the treacherous climb down from the nearest road.

Fifty years before that story was written, Thomas Cole, the great Nineteenth Century painter and founder of the Hudson River School, was just settling into his studio only a couple of miles to the east. With the main road up to the mountaintop passing right along the glen I can only imagine Mr. Cole spending a summer’s day in the glen, sketching and swimming in the Catskill Creek.

Back to the Times article, it begins:

“The larger portion of Summer travelers who visit the Catskills are whirled across the intervening country between the river and mountains, thus losing what is certainly one of the most startling and interesting phases in the Catskill region, namely, a coral reef, along which the tourist can walk, a veritable beach upon whose sands the waves of a great sea beat untold ages ago. With a party of early sojourners at the mountains, I wandered along a section of this great reef…”

“…A few hundred yards further on the creek deepens, and several large boulders lie on the shore that yielded to the persuasive hammer trilobites and several fine specimens of a delicate marine plant. Here we dined; the cloth being spread on a Silurian boulder, a modern lunch served and highly enjoyed…”

“…The first specimen noticed in the slate-colored rocks would be taken by the casual observer as button-molds pressed into the rock. Thousands of them were seen in every position, some standing out in relief, the rock around them having worn away, and making the walking none the best.They were crinoid stems, remains of one of the most beautiful and graceful animals of the primeval seas,,,”

One hundred thirty years later (last week, to be precise), I climbed down into the glen to see what I could find. All the images in this post are the results of that visit. I see many more return trips in the future.

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

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The Gilboa Forest

My good friend, Ms Linda VanAller Hernick from the New York State Museum, and her associates, are in the spotlight and part of the cover story of the March issue of Nature Magazine entitled “The Lost World.” It was their work that has led to the discovery of the floor of the world’s oldest forest. Personally for Linda “This is the culmination of a lifelong interest” as she told Paul Grondahl of the Albany Times-Union. It’s a fascinating story involving a number of scientists working together over a considerable period of time and well worth a read. I can’t do it justice so please go to any of the following links to learn more:

Albany Times-Union –  A land lost to time is big find for museum

And, of course, Nature Magazine, on the newsstands now.
I met Linda while I was working on a project involving the relationship between the Hudson River School painters of the 1800s and the “gentleman geologists” of the day. I had already photographed fossils from the “box of rocks”, as it is known, in the possession of Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historical Site. Along with a series of Catskill landscapes, taken in areas explored by the likes of Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, etc., I needed to round out the project.
Linda opened up the NYSM fossil collection to me and allowed me to photograph numerous, rare plant fossils. These beautiful, delicate fossil images became, to me, the anchor that pulled my project together. In fact, the picture above of a plant fossil (Archaeopteris) needed a background to set it off. We used one of the Gilboa tree stumps for that purpose!
What follows are images that could only have been made with Linda’s assistance and expertise:
Congratulations once again to all involved. For fossil nerds like me it’s an exciting story.
Since I brought up the Thomas Cole “box of rocks” here are a few images from that endeavor:
One final note – Last week’s post contained a cephalopod image of mine about which a scientific question was asked. My explanation fell short. So, as I often do, I turned to my good friend, Dr. Chuck ver Straeten, for a full explanation and I want to thank him for that.
Thank you for the visit. More images at www.artmurphy.com
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