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Elizabeth Murray’s Bow Tie : Scientific Connections

Elizabeth Murray’s Bow Tie is a delightfully paradox example of avant-garde artwork of the 2000s. Her response to Cubist-resultant Minimalism and Surrealist-influenced Pop Art are warped, knotted and shaped canvases that give a new dimension to modern Surrealism.
The aforementioned Bow Tie, a spectacular unity-through-repetition work consisting of rounded abstract forms, painted with bold, primary-color-blocked segments. When I first came across this work, I was shocked how visually similar this is to the structure of a human cell.

Elizabeth Murray, Bow Tie


From the waviness of the mitochondria, to the parallel linear segments of the endoplasmic reticulum, the visual resemblances of Murray’s Bow Tie to the structures within the human cell are too prevalent to leave unnoticed.
Her art fuses vulgar humor and dialectal experiments in a way that itself establishes an ironic collision. Murray’s ability to combine abstraction and figuration simultaneously while dealing with life’s impurities within the realms of pure shape and color is reminiscent of Picasso or Miro, for example. (Cohen, 2011) One of the most important aspects for me, compared to other avant-garde female artists of our time, is that Murray specifically stated that it was important to blur the line between female and male work. She didn’t want her work to be viewed as “painted by a woman.” “I see my own work as androgynous,” said Murray. (Gardner, 1984)


Murray’s work could be considered a challenge, dissent and antagonistic in nature. Challenging the seriousness of other modern artists. This challenge to other artists, both male and female—was to create work that stands alone and doesn’t follow trends or gender politics. Unlike the other artists in this unit’s readings, Murray’s work was evident to never have been inspired or affected by politics or gender roles and is dissent in the separation from serious subject matter and garish colors. Murray took understandable concepts and familiar works and transported them to a new spatial dimension, embracing the colloquial imagery of pop culture.


Worth noting is that Murray passed away in 2007 from a 2005 brain cancer diagnoses. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. (Cancer Treatment Centers of America, 2019) This work seems to be even more significant when we analyze Murray’s quote from a 1984 article in the magazine ArtNews: “I think art is a mirror of our own conflicts. In some way, artists always paint about themselves, whether the result is expressed as fantasy or reality.”(Gardner, 1984)

Cohen, David. “Elizabeth Murray and Tom Burckhardt: A Review from 2006.” Artcritical. July 05, 2011. Accessed August 06, 2019. http://www.artcritical.com/2006/10/19/elizabeth-murray-tom-burckhardt/.
Gardner, Paul. “Elizabeth Murray Shapes Up.” ArtNews, September 1984.
“What Is Cancer?: Common Forms and Oncology Treatment Options.” Cancer Treatment Centers of America. July 19, 2019. Accessed August 06, 2019. https://www.cancercenter.com/what-is-cancer.
https://www.fotolibra.com/gallery/50002/cross-section-of-human-cell-illustration/

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