Blog Archive


Eliza Murphy-Animalis Tabulum

Woven into a Dream by Eliza Murphy 2008

Animalis Tabulum

Several years ago I stopped wincing when I saw a dead animal lying in the road. I could no longer avert my gaze. Road kill began to rivet my attention. Although each one made me sad, grief struck me as an insufficient response.  It wasn’t enough to offer an apology as I passed by. Aside from trying to avoid hitting an animal, I had no idea if anything could be done to curtail the slaughter. As a participant-observer in this colossal tragedy unfolding wherever roads lead, to not do something about the carnage was to shirk responsibility. Seeing animals ravaged beyond recognition diminished my squeamishness over time once I lifted, peeled, scooped or scraped one body after another off the blacktop.

Gila Monster Midway 2008 by Eliza Murphy
Animalis, (Latin) having breath
Animals deserve a more honorable end than to have their lovely bodies assaulted repeatedly or left to rot, buckled against a concrete barrier. By offering each animal a more respectful resting place, I hope to reduce traffic carnage by donating the meat to the wildlife eking out a living along the edges of our travel corridors. Wildlife often risks injury or death while scavenging on the center line. Instead of tires rendering an animal to dust, this practice permits me to participate in the economy and beauty of the recycling practices of the natural world. The box shrines I assemble are meant to memorialize our vanishing wildlife. 

Snake has many Facets, 2008 by Eliza Murphy

Animalis(Latin) having breath
The two types of objects that inspired me to make these box collages first came to my attention in New Mexico – descansos and retalbos, both of Latin American origin. Descansos, originally a resting place for a loved one, now refers to roadside memorials that have migrated north over the past decade. Retalbo is a wooden box, often carved and painted, that holds and frames other art objects of spiritual significance.

Desert Crossing by Eliza Murphy 2008
Originally used as a portable altar made of a single carved icon surrounded by bits of colorful paper, and candles to light as offerings, contained for travel in a painted wooden box with hinged doors, retro-tabulums (“behind the altar”) were used for protection by Spanish warriors determined to impose their religious beliefs on indigenous South American cultures. After the conquest, the Andean people adapted the form to honor local spirits as well as the imported saints. 

Back to the Flower World Eliza Murphy 2008
Animalis, (Latin) having breath
Dedicated to animals who no longer have breath and to all the animals still breathing, I offer these shrines in apology and celebration. 

 by Eliza Murphy 2011
Eliza Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. More gatherer than hunter, she cannot resist a good bone or other detritus found along her journey, most often underfoot, that she knows will come in handy when making something. 

Beauty is not suspect, but an antidote to the preponderance of ugliness in the world; ugliness in its multi-nefarious forms – pollution, limited access to birth control, poverty, over population, chemical and biological warfare, genetically modified crops, torture, consumption, off road vehicles, illegal trade in wildlife for mythical erections, rigged votes, private jets and yachts, and the remainder of the trophic cascade of horrors that occur as a result of ignorance, fear, and greed, in the name of patriotism, one nation under the god, that insolent fantasy figure delusional people slather prayers on, the schizoid faithful who readily attribute his ongoing dismissal of their prayers to his divine plan.  

Photos by Anne Marie Grgich 2011

ArtSpace News