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Funny how his color explodes

The invitation for the public opening (6-9 tonight) of an exhibit of paintings by Murray Whisnant lists him as “an architect, designer, inventor, furniture maker and artist.”

All true, although his inventions tend to the wacky rather than the practical. Murray also ranks as one of Charlotte's funniest people, whose wit has graced the Observer's letters to the editor page and public forums. He's also my bud (full disclosure), but I write about his show at the Joie Lassiter Gallery not because he's a pal. It's because his art is worth your time.

Murray has been an architect, and a staunchly Modernist one, for more than 50 years. His art-making also goes way back. He was elected class artist at Central High (Class of 1950) but was prevented from taking office by a faculty member who objected to his smart-alecky ways.

In recent years he's worked harder with brush and canvas, perhaps spurred by the success of his daughter, Ena Swansea, a N.Y. artist with a growing reputation. Murray's most recent subject is nature – trees, plants and sky revealed in a startling light. But I think his real subject is color. Reproduced on the exhibit invitation is “Forsythia,” an explosion of yellow against a dark blue sky and even darker trees.

The painting doesn't read as a traditional take on realism. However, it sings as a statement on the pure pleasure of putting one color against another, of covering a canvas with marks that fairly leap with joy.

Murray's a funny guy.

He's also talented.

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