Date:December 31, 2012

Telling the Story: Chelmsford Center for the Arts

Telling the Story: The Military Art of Crissie Murphy
Chelmsford Center for the Arts—By Molly Loughman

Depicting a slice of life the average person seldom sees has served Crissie Murphy well. Her military artwork currently hangs in the Pentagon and in the art gallery at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts.

Documenting operations through her paintings overseas and at home at the request of the Pentagon, Murphy saw the CCA as another opportunity to share her illustrations locally.

Flattered by the reception and support she received at last Sunday’s CCA Veterans Auditorium dedication, Murphy hopes her work brings awareness to people. Her passion for depicting the everyday heroics ‘getting the job done’ by illustrating those behind the image of the military, has yielded Murphy some unforgettable experiences.

Earning a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration at Massachusetts College of Art in 1985, with additional studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Murphy’s career has since landed her on flight lines with the helicopter crews, still clutching her sketchbook.

Deployed to Haiti and Guantanamo Bay shortly after the earthquake to document relief efforts, the Methuen native is equipped with portable art supplies and a camera at all times. Sketching onsite, on the ground and sometimes balancing in a moving vehicle or helicopter, Murphy has to be ready to pick up and run. When she returns to the studio she uses the photos and sketches as reference for paintings.

Murphy was the recent recipient of the American Society of Aviation Artists Founder’s Recognition Award for her work conveying Special Operations Forces. Her paintings are permanent additions to the USAF Collection

Admiring the Air Force from afar and at home growing up sparked Murphy’s interest in the military, whose father served in the Army Air Force Medical Corps in World War II. Murphy remembers her father taking her to air shows, a fascination she’s never outgrown. Familiar with the Air Force Art Program, in existence for over 60 years, Murphy says she’s always loved the reportorial task for military artists in capturing the unseen.

Art has always had a place in Murphy’s life and she’s made it her personal mission for it to stay in hers. Extending the family legacy, Murphy’s great grandfather was a painter and her mom was fashion illustrator. Nowadays Murphy seeks inspiration and guidance from Keith Ferris, best known for the murals in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and named to the Aviation Hall of Fame. She also appreciates artwork from the golden age, including those of NC Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, Frederic Remington and Winslow Homer, artists whom she says had a story to tell.

Read more: Q&A with military artist Crissie Murphy – Chelmsford, Massachusetts – Chelmsford Independent