Murray Siple | Walletmoth
Alum Murray Siple (BFA, 1995) is a quadriplegic living and working in North Vancouver out of his converted garage. At the beginning of a bright career, Murray was involved in a high-speed motor vehicle accident which, combined with an emergency room mistake, left him a quadriplegic.
In rehabilitation, Murray immediately began drawing again. His drawing led him to design and a way to express what needed adapting for him, from ramps and bathrooms to clothing. He built an adapted house in North Vancouver that gained international press for combining modern design with barrier-free access.
Living in that home on the steep slopes of the North Shore led him to write and direct Carts of Darkness, a National Film Board of Canada production. The film follows homeless people who ride shopping carts downhill to collect bottles. It explores, the sometimes desperate world they live in, their outsider “otherness” and acceptance of Murray as another “outsider’’, as well as the mad brief joy of riding the hills of North Van. Carts of Darkness won a Leo and is now one of the National Film Boards most watched documentaries.
During a break from filmmaking, Murray moved to Mexico and began painting murals. “I drove to a small oceanside village in Mexico and lived away from winter in a landscape of humid nightmares. I swerved along a highway of daily death, between cartels, animals, and tourism. I took refuge in the sunshine,” said Murray. In the small town where he took up residence, there was no place to buy art supplies, but Murray was resourceful.
“There were no art supplies in my village. I sourced house paints and brushes from local hardware stores. I began painting the walls of my small garage,” said Murray. “The spaces on the walls shrank as I experimented using my paralyzed hands that I tricked into clinging to a brush.”
Not to be held back, he began painting with house paint on expired election signs. Co-opting the seemingly useless signs was sometimes met with suspicion and a trade relationship with helpful neighbours ensued. “The images that emerged, large bold, colourful silhouettes of the dark beings who lived around me, began to tell my experience of Mexico,” said Murray. “The town had recently held elections, leaving the expired election signs. It felt illegal to take them, but soon I had a dozen free canvases stacked in my studio.”
Now back in North Vancouver, Murray paints in his converted garage studio. He continues to explore our collective fears of what may lurk behind the darkness. Murray admits no other medium has felt as satisfying as painting. It is a process that allows him to compose and lay down in vivid colour: what he dreams, what scares him, what threatens our planet.
“I want people to understand, by looking deeper into my paintings, that they were created not only by a person with a disability, but a person with a disability living in a rough, rural, risky, and unprotected environment,” said Murray.
Text courtesy of Murray Siple.