East City Art Reviews—Blu Murphy Le Drip: Uncontainable Sauce of Black Essence

By Guest Author on July 18, 2022

By Monty Eaton

Editor’s Note: Monty Eaton is a rising high school freshman at Alexandria Public Schools.  See his full bio below.

Le Drip: Uncontainable Sauce of Black Essence was a solo exhibition by Washington DC artist Blu Murphy at Torpedo Factory’s Target Gallery. The exhibition consists of a group of portraits created as a tribute to the Black community and celebrates the essence—“sauce”—and influence Black people bring to the world. It also shows how Black people can be undervalued or overlooked in today’s society.

The photos included in the exhibit are of elementary and middle school students who attend a title one school in Southeast DC, where Murphy teaches arts education. A title one school is the largest federally funded educational program, which supports low-income students throughout the nation. Throughout Murphy’s artworks in Le Drip, she consistently added the statement “I Am Art” in the paintings, usually shown in the children’s shirt pins, shirt tags, or used in background posters. Some of the paintings are accompanied by bubble letter type graffiti of “I Am Art,” which is displayed on the back of the children’s shirts or as a background effect.

Photo credit: Monty Eaton.

A quote displayed on the wall of the Target Gallery with Murphy’s work states, “I paint outside of the frame cuz our sauce can’t be contained.” This is displayed by extra drips of graffiti leaking outside of the frame. I think this quote means that even if we feel boxed in and undervalued at times, our sauce and essence will still shine brightly for the whole world to see. I enjoyed seeing the different types of creative hairstyles worn by the children in her work, which show just a fraction of the “sauce” Black people naturally have. I also noticed that, in the paintings, children are either looking back, or they are turned forward with their eyes closed.

Blu Murphy Never A Leader… Always a Criminal.  Photo Credit: Monty Eaton.

One painting that stood out to me titled Never A Leader… Always a Criminal, presents a white male with a black ski mask centered in the middle of the work. He is surrounded by Black Civil Rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. Going back to the graffiti leaking out of the paintings that I discussed earlier, my perspective on this specific painting shows that even behind bars, Black men are still able to show their influence and essence even if they are incarcerated and cut-off from the public. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bravery in the face of being arrested, which he was many times, encouraged people to protest, march, fight for equal rights and desegregation, with courage and determination.

Blu Murphy Never Free… Always a Target, Photo credit: Monty Eaton.

Another painting titled Never Free… Always a Target presented a Black boy standing with his hands horizontal in the air. A target is displayed on his back, which I feel symbolizes how Black people feel like as they are always aimed at or targeted which was very apparent during slavery and segregation times, but still happens to this day. Also, the painting shows an addition to the late Civil Rights activist, Malcolm X, with an AK-47 in his hand. X frequently spread the word that violence is “OK” in certain instances, with quotes like, “We’re nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us” and, “If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad.” He also coined the phrase “By Any Means Necessary” which is actually the title of a book written by him that was posthumously published in 1970.

Photo credit: Monty Eaton.

Other observations I made about paintings in the exhibition are that, in two of the works, the children have a halo over their head with two people who are smaller than them, standing beside them. Also in all but one painting, children are depicted in black and white.

Photo credit: Monty Eaton.

In an untitled, black and white video filmed by Blu Murphy, she asked some of the children at her school. “Why they are art.” The children answered that “they are art” because they are unique, influential, and bring life to the world. Murphy attempts to show their responses through her artwork.

I think Blu Murphy’s Le Drip Exhibition is important because it shows how creative she is and how she can express her feelings towards Black power and excellence, through her artwork. By teaching arts education at a title one school, her perspective of Black culture is more impactful. I think expressing one’s passion and thoughts through art can initiate great conversations, not just for how well it might be executed, but also to understand the deeper meaning behind it, allowing the viewer to determine what they take away from its meaning.

As a kid myself, looking at the artwork from Murphy’s exhibit, and all the other kids she has taught arts and Black power to, it shows me that no matter how old, young, smart, or dumb you might be, as a Black citizen in America, you should not feel muzzled or underappreciated by your peers because everyone is equal. Black people bring natural essence and sauce to the world, and that should not be discredited. It also taught me that whatever unique and special way you can show your addition to spread the word, whether it’s through art, protests, raising money, donating money, promoting through social media posts, etc. it all helps at the end of the day for Black culture to be noticed, heard, and admired throughout the world because… “You are art.”

 


Blu Murphy Le Drip: Uncontainable Sauce of Black Essence was on view at Torpedo Factory’s Target Gallery from April 23-July 17.  


Monty Eaton loves playing basketball and video games. He’s been writing since he was 8 years old and enjoys crafting thoughtful articles and short stories.