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91-Year-Old Painter Regina Murphy Says Art Keeps Her Alive

Credit Kate Carlton
Artist Regina Murphy standing next to one of her works.

Men in skinny ties accompany women wearing maxi dresses while they window shop through the pastel building-lined Paseo Arts District.Inside the studio on the corner of 30th and Paseo, you’ll find Regina Murphy.

The 91-year-old has seen plenty of Oklahoma history, but it’s her own life experiences that drive her. She belongs in Studio Six, and she says she doesn’t feel out of place amongst the younger artists in the Paseo District.

Murphy: You know, I just think that there’s an awful lot of talent out there and I wish to encourage them. Many people say they’re going to try to live like I do, a long time. They say I’m their inspiration, which is flattering.

Carlton: I read on your website that you’ve been painting for about 40 years?

Murphy: Maybe more like 50. Early on, I was interested in performance art. Then I got married and didn’t pursue that, and I took up needle art while I was raising my children. And then about 50 years ago, I took up painting.

Carlton: So what made you decide that painting was something you wanted to pursue?

Murphy: I had a daughter that was an art major, and she got me started. I’ve loved it ever since.

Carlton :Do you remember your first piece?

Murphy: I remember some of the first. I don’t know what was the first. I remember one that geraniums in a clay pot.

Carlton: Did you start mostly with still-life?

Murphy: Yes, when I was taking lessons, I did mostly still life. But I did landscape. Landscapes always been my favorite thing.

Carlton: Why is that?

Murphy: I don’t know, exactly. But when I’m out in the landscape, it inspires me. I love to see different formations of the earth, and I always think how I would interpret it.

Carlton: Is there a genre of art that you’re interested in pursuing, painting-wise, that you haven’t been able to get to yet?

Murphy: Well, I’ve tried a little of most everything. Right now, I’ve been concentrating on some abstract things, which I’ve dabbled in a little off and on but I seem to be a little more interested in doing that right now than the more traditional.

Carlton: You paint every weekday, are there days when it’s harder? When creativity doesn’t come as easily?

Murphy: Yes, sometimes you’re just in a slump, not too interested in any one thing. But that comes and goes. I think that’s true with most all artists.

Carlton: I think sometimes, as a journalism major, I get in a period where I have writer’s block. Someone once told me that you just have to sit your butt in a chair and write. 

Murphy: That’s true. You just don’t quit. And I think if you do, then it’s awfully hard to get back into it, no matter what the art is.

Carlton: I’ve noticed that in the retrospective in the East Gallery of the State Capitol right now, there’s a whole variety of different styles. And on your website, you have Monkey Business right next to your Rocks and Rivers, and all of that. Did that kind of progression occur as you advanced in your career?

Murphy: Usually I paint a series at a time. The monkey that I have is a wooden monkey. I use it as a model for all the different scenes I’ve done with the monkeys. It comes and goes.

Carlton: What do you hope to get out of ultimately becoming a painter? What is your goal at the end of this?

Murphy: Well, at this point, it’s a little late to kind of be having goals. I’ve tried a lot. My goal is to just keep painting, you know, because I think that’s what is keeping me alive. I think if you don’t have any interest, you die.

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