A New Perspective on Macabre Subjects in the work of Michael J Murphy

Beyond Photography… featuring the artwork of Michael J Murphy is now open!

Public Reception: January 14, 2022, 5 – 7 p.m.
Exhibit on display January 12, 2022 – January 29, 2022

From his dreams of becoming a mortician at age 12 to his high school job as a gravedigger, Michael Murphy had a lifelong fascination with the macabre. His series of graveyard photographs began in 2004, when he befriended the groundskeeper of a historic Philadelphia cemetery, and he spent the next 15 years actively seeking and photographing cemeteries everywhere he visited.

Michael Murphy passed away in 2021 at the age of 61. He was a free spirit who, after graduating from Bay City Central High School in 1977, enrolled at Piney Point Merchant Marine Academy. Upon graduation, he spent some time sailing the Great Lakes, enjoying his youth and collecting stories. His next adventure was a move to Texas, where he worked in the oil fields. After returning to Michigan, he became a registered nurse and spent 28 years caring for patients in the emergency room and intensive care unit. He was dearly loved by his coworkers, patients, and many friends that he seemed to make wherever he went.

This exhibit of Michael’s photography features 70 images spanning cemeteries in five states and showcasing the monuments and memorials created to commemorate the deceased. The photographs in this exhibit reveal how trends and style have influenced how we have memorialized our loved ones through time.  Although macabre, the show is also a tender and sentimental reflection on the passage of time through the loss of loved ones and the decay of their monuments. Informational labels in the exhibit include pieces of history, thoughtful observations, and background on materials and styles, making this exhibition of interest to artists, photographers, and historians alike.

The “Beyond Photography” exhibit is made possible by Murphy’s wife, Sara Urband-Murphy. While Murphy was fascinated by the dead and the rituals that the living employ to memorialize those that they loved, his contribution to the living was a far greater gift.

Please join us for a public reception Friday, January 14th from 5 to 7 p.m.

We hope to see you there!


Amy Gibas
Curator of exhibits & membership
Studio 23/The Arts Center

Upcoming Events at Studio 23

Weekly classes for adults and children begin on January 17th. Check out the education tab on our website to view all the options. Children classes begin at age 7 and adult classes begin at age 18. From pottery to drawing, and watercolor to poetry, we feel we have something for everyone!

Studio 23’s 100 Day Project begins January 25th! This is a self-driven creative practice that only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day, and a great way to explore, experiment, and motivate yourself to start or finish new and existing projects.

Our first day kick-off session will be on January 25th from 4 – 5:30 pm. This will be a hybrid style check-in with options to join us in the classroom or virtually over Zoom. We will have meetings at the 30, 60, and 90 day marks with a final celebration after the 100 Days on May 10th.

Our guiding word for 2022 is momentum. You may use this as a theme throughout the 100 days or choose your own, but I hope we will all find the momentum we need to have a successful 100 days and more!

To register for the 100 Day Project, please visit our jotform link by clicking here. Registration and membership to Studio 23 is required to participate, and there is a registration fee of $10.

Our next Member Make & Take event is Thursday, February 10th, available from 2 to 8 p.m. Join us to create a fun, Valentine-themed piece of artwork, or take a packet to create at home! This is a free drop-in event for members of Studio 23. No registration is required.

Books on Art Club: February 16, 2022, 4 p.m. Virtual Zoom Session

We will be reading The Flowering, An Autobiography of Judy Chicago. Artist Nancy Philo will be leading our discussion. Nancy has been an artist collective member at Studio 23 for a few years and she is now teaching two classes for Studio 23. Make sure to check out our class schedule for some options!

If you would like to be notified about book club activities, please send us an email. We will update your interests in our database.

Don’t forget to start at smile.amazon.com when you shop! Select Studio 23 as your charity and we receive of portion of your purchase. This helps support our exhibits, programs and public art initiatives. Thank you for your support!


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