Althea Murphy-Price ─ From Me to You

The current exhibition in the Baer Gallery, From Me to You, explores topics of self-perception, beauty and the Black female identity through photography and sculpture. Murphy-Price reflects on the problematic weight of expectations as an inherited female legacy, “passed down from me to you.” 

Althea Murphy-Price is an artist and professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville whose work explores the social implication of beauty and its relationship to female identity, women, and culture. Her pieces, which range from screenprint collages to rugs made from human hair, have been shown internationally, including in Spain, China, Japan, Italy and Sweden. She has also been featured in Art Papers Magazine, CAA Reviews, Contemporary Impressions Journal, Art in Print, Printmaking: A Complete Guide to Materials and Process, and Printmakers Today. She studied at Spelman College and received a Master of Arts in Printmaking and Painting at Purdue University, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from Tyler School of Art, Temple University.

Much of Murphy-Price’s work grapples with the social perceptions and the sense of personal identity tied to Black women’s hair and hairstyles. Her Goody Girl series of photographs responds to the high expectations of #blackgirlmagic, a hashtag intended to uplift and empower, but can also feel like a pressure to perform. Through a metaphor of barrettes and bows, Murphy-Price explores how trying to live up to fantastical expectations can have real consequences.

Her more recent prints, including Black Bird Girl and Requiem, feature 3D printed objects arranged sculpturally in young children’s hair. The dizzying array of hair accessories used in these photographs also composes her sculpture Counter. Some of these accessories, like bows and flowers, are innocent and childlike, but others, like satellites, bullets, and birdcages, have connotations associated with heavier subjects. All have implied expectations, and carrying their weight can be difficult.

Counter (detail) 2021. 3D printed polymer.

From Me to You opened in two stages, on Feb. 28 and March 3, and can be visited through March 31.

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