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Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

Waterway by Colette Murphy

OBJECT: Shipwrecks

BODY OF WATER: Hudson River

“Home,” Acrylic & bleach on linen, 46″x60″, 2009

“Home,” Acrylic & bleach on linen, 46″x60″, 2009

“Poaching,” Acrylic & bleach on linen, 36″x60″, 2009.

“Poaching,” Acrylic & bleach on linen, 36″x60″, 2009.


“Great Island III,” Acrylic and linen, 76″x76″, 2009

“Great Island III,” Acrylic and linen, 76″x76″, 2009

Artist Statement

This body of work required a search for something real and sustainable both in the physical construction of the work and the images I chose. The image of the shipwreck became a tangible object as a metaphor for our fragile state as a society. The appeal of these large, well constructed, man-made objects came from their use as war tanks. Built with a persuasion for life everlasting and yet against the force of nature they crumble and are swallowed. The catastrophe has a peaceful ending. With a desire to return to more meager means of survival or serenity I drown in the silence of the water’s vibration. The materials I choose are in their most unpolished form i.e. raw linen, dirty paint water and pencil, a direct contrast to the indulgence of our society. A return to landscape painting reveals an environment depleted by its previous inhabitants. The landscape has inherited our deserted presence. The vine of growth attempts to strangle the throne which once seated the king. Waterways swallowed the objects abandoned from their former days of glory. Decay is losing ground as the paint soaks the last breath of color from its falling days of grace. As an artist I am committed to recording the world as it is, unedited. It is not the event that I am interested in, rather the perception of the event. The details of the decline are glorious, the devastation sublime. The silence of language and the absence of people is the world revealed in my work. The aftermath is a desire for something more but the threatening future possesses me and the work that I make.


Colette Murphy is a painter who lives and works in Brooklyn. She holds an MFA from Hunter College. In 2009, she exhibited in “Personally Political—Contemporary Sensation,”at Art House Tacles, Berlin. She also showed with “PARLOUR.” No 6 “Watery Grave” in Staten Island. In 2008, she exhibited at Dean Project, LIC, APW Gallery, and Hunter College Times Square in New York City, as well as at the Scope Art Fair in London and in the Hamptons. In 2004, she exhibited at The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery at Hunter College. She has been published in New American Paintings, Feb-March Edition, 2009.  She was the recipient of the Estelle Levy Award in 2008 and the Tony Smith Award 2009.