Next Big Things: Ambrose Rhapsody Murray
The Yale grad crafts deeply personal textile works that meld her research in ancestral connections with spirituality
A self-taught painter and seamstress hailing from North Carolina, Ambrose Rhapsody Murray has been steadily generating buzz for her exquisitely crafted textile works that explore the human condition. “I have always found so much power and refuge in making things,” she says. “Growing up biracial, Black, and queer in the South, I got to know myself through art.”
With a degree in African American studies from Yale, she creates deeply personal pieces that meld her research in ancestral connections with spirituality and intuition. Since receiving a YoungArts prize in 2014, Murray has exhibited with N’Namdi Contemporary in Miami, Jeffrey Deitch in Los Angeles, and Fridman Gallery in New York, where she had her first solo exhibition this November.
Rewriting history: Murray’s latest series is based on archival photographs of Black women and girls from the early 1900s. “Circulated around the world as postcards, these images were forms of pornography, tools of colonial propaganda, and lexicons for violence. I hope to revise these images through a lens of protection, care, and love. I want to repair these histories that live within each figure’s body and my own so that we may find the space for healing, recovery, and magical possibilities.”
Unique process: The work begins with an image that’s printed onto fabric before Murray slowly collages together the different layers using a sewing machine. “I feel connected to a long lineage of women’s work when I am sewing, and I imagine all of the artworks my great grandmothers and their mothers would’ve made if they had more space, time, and freedom.”
“I love how Ambrose creates powerful spaces of connection using figurative and abstract elements. I am also especially drawn to the way she uses fabric, adding movement and layers,to shroud space both literally and conceptually, and invite the viewer into a very personal experience."Sarah Arison, president, Arison Arts Foundation
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2021 Winter Issue under the headline “Next Big Things.” Subscribe to the magazine.