Media - 2014.4.3 - SAAM-2014.4.3_1 - 100227
Copied J. B. Murray, Untitled, ca. 1978-1988, tempera and marker on paper, sheet and image: 18 × 12 in. (45.7 × 30.5 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2014.4.3, © Estate of J.B. Murray

Artwork Details

ca. 1978-1988
Not on view
sheet and image: 18 × 12 in. (45.7 × 30.5 cm)
© Estate of J.B. Murray
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Mediums Description
tempera and marker on paper
  • Abstract
Object Number

Artwork Description

“Everything I see is from the sun,” Murray said in 1986, recalling the vision that led to his art making. Murray described a vision of golden light and an eagle flying past the sun as well as deceased family members. He began scrawling in an asemic script—patterns that look like writing but contain no actual words. Murray’s practice fused Baptist Christianity with African-American folkways that freely co-mingle doctrine with belief in magic and the powers of the natural world. “It is the language of the Holy Spirit, direct from God,” Murray said of his script-like drawings. He urged people to read his messages through a vial of water, believing that the pure of heart would be able to interpret them. His goal was not to be an artist but rather to be an instrument of God’s message.