Sarah Elizabeth Murphy


Sarah Murphy is a designer, photographer, writer, film maker and artist. This spring she was accepted to an exhibition Anima Mundi in Lithuania and Georgia. She needs our help to get there. 

I like her eye, how in her poetry and visuals she captures the intimacies that make life worth living. We have a chance to welcome her art into our homes (with the GoFundMe incentives)  

She is making powerful and intimate work. I find her brave. She was kind to let me interview her about her latest project.

You do an amazing job of bridging the arts—of blending different mediums. It seems like this merging is in keeping with your overall message, which centers on symbiotic structures and balance. How is Anima Mundi & The Mares of Diomedes in keeping with this?  

I really struggle with this, so I’m glad it doesn’t show! I used to think I should just be really great at one thing, rather than struggling to master so many mediums. However, know I think my multi-disciplinary nature is actually an asset, and I am finding as I become more skilled, the whole is becoming more than the sum of its parts. It’s more holistic in a way. Things seem to come in cycles and waves, where one avenue will pick up and another will lull. I never get bored at least! There seem to be a million things running around my mind at any given moment.

Anima Mundi is actually the art festival. ( I think as an artist when you’re submitting to things and facing both acceptance and rejection, you forget that there is someone out there looking for what you are doing. I think knowing what I know now about what anima mundi is both in language (Latin for soul) and philosophy my work actually fits pretty well within their mission. It almost becomes a symbiotic relationship on its own. The Mares of Diomedes actually was an extended exploration of a singular shoot for my circus freaks project. When I processed the 35 mm film in the darkroom, the negatives actually looked black and opaque, but when I scanned them in, these beautiful images appeared that were completely ethereal and unexpected. I firmly believe in the happy accidents, serendipity and allowing the work to flow through you, rather than trying to control every aspect. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for technicality, but I find my best work comes when I least expect it and trust in intuition. Perhaps that is the balance, that fine line between control and gut instinct.

Tell me about “Keepers Tale”?

I’m not exactly sure what “Keeper’s Tale” is yet. I know there is a story to be told, when I read about the flood, my heart was breaking for the human lives lost, but the loss of zoo animals lives seemed tragic. When we keep animals in captivity, they are at our mercy. Many couldn’t escape because of their closures, and many of those that did were predator animals that became threats to the general population during a time of chaos and uncertainty. Seeing the indignity of their muddy bodies strewn across the grass really pulled at my poet’s heart. I thought about the animals I’ve been fortunate to know in my life. When I was young, my dream job was to be a zoo keeper. When I rode Rob Roy from Kentucky to Virginia, I couldn’t believe how close we became. I would whistle for him in the night and he would come to me. I imagined these zoo keepers losing their charges, how close and intimate it must be to know them, their likes and dislikes, schedules and habits. I want to give voice to their experiences. This is the first time I’ve attempted a documentary style film. It just so happens that Pro 8mm, a company who specializes in Super 8 stock in Burbank, CA is offering a grant program. So I applied. Finger’s crossed!

You yourself went on a wild ride to better understand Anima Mundi. Could you tell me a little about this experience?

This is what I mean about my work fitting in with their mission. The ride from Virginia to Kentucky actually happened four years ago. I became involved with the mountaintop removal movement and I wanted to see for myself what it was about. I’d been to Appalachia Rising, in DC and met people who lived in the coalfields. I think there is a lot we don’t know about production in America. Where things come from and at what cost. The whole thing became this beautiful lesson in relenquishing to the Universe, trusting humankind to keep me safe, to give me a place to rest my head. Sometimes my life feels so far removed from that, but in some ways this journey to Lithuania and Georgia just becomes another journey to spread the message about our resources and the connectedness we all share.

Tell me about femininity.

Femininity is loaded. I used to be a part of an all-female talk radio show on WXJM called Dame Theory. We would choose current events from the news and spend a segment discussing them. Oftentimes they would deal with women’s rights, or social injustices against women. I was always surprised by people who didn’t want to be identified as a feminist. I do agree that it’s a word that has gotten a bad rap, but really it’s just equality. When I went on the horse back ride, a lot of men thought I should have a gun, or that I shouldn’t go at all. I was really resentful of that, sometimes I envy the ease with which men can go through the world, exploring and adventuring. Femininity is something a woman should be able to claim for herself, her own frontier that she can find, not something that is defined for her.

Tell me about power.

Power is also loaded. I think in current society it’s come to stand for oppression. For one group maintaining their position on top, at the expense of another. Really power should come from within, and move outward. Power can also be defined as force, which can also be abused. Force should also come from within, with confidence and self-motivation not through bullying or objectification.

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” – Lao Tzu

What do you need? At its core, what is this crowdfunding effort about? 

It’s important to me to know that those in my community support me, and believe in the value of what I am offering to the world. This is a huge step in my career and a giant leap outside my comfort zone. I want to know that I can trust the world to catch me.

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