After twenty years of working in production design and carpentry, Los Angeles-based artist Troy Murrah picked up a habit of saving interesting material from metal, plexi, doors, shelves, to furniture left on sidewalks, not knowing at the time what he would use them for. It wasn’t until his mother, a dedicated quilter, passed away that he found a use for the things he had been collecting.
In her memory, he used his salvaged material to construct an elaborate wall hanging that replicated a traditional Lone Star quilt block pattern. She always wanted him to do something quilt-related with his art. The result was a fulfilling repurposing of his material and a tribute to an American tradition. This was to be the first of a series of artworks Troy termed ‘built quilts’. Taking on a life of their own, they carry on a tradition of resourcefulness––like quilts––through their application of remnant material. And while they lack the softness and functionality of quilts, the process involved shares similarities.
After sketching his design, Murrah cuts strips from discarded material, much like quilters cut strips from fabric scraps, before dicing the strips up further into thousands of diamonds, triangles, and other shapes (although, he uses saws instead of scissors and rotary cutters). Not letting anything go to waste, he’ll source even the most unconventional materials. For example, his Log Cabin piece ‘The Strength of a Scorpion Mother’ uses an old wooden tabletop, wood from a 19th Century Texas barn, and engineered floorboards. An old dry erase board adds some gloss and shine.
Murrah’s built quilts draw from themes of everyday life at home to his own bizarre experiences, featuring engravings of his illustrations and designs on to what would be the ‘negative space’ of a quilt, bringing new life to old materials.
Guest blog by Michelle Lee Murrah.