Come Into Gwen Murphy’s Surreal Shoes World

Artist Gwen calls her series “Foot Fetish.” Within a pair of old shoes, she can see expressive personalities. 

Gwen Murphy, an American sculptor, is a brilliant artist who breathes new life into old shoes, by transforming them from fashion accessories into intriguing works of art.

Ever since she was a little girl, she liked to look at shoes and found that they were staring back at her, each pair with its own character and personality.

Depending on the model and how worn out they were, some shoes sometimes looked sleepy, other times grouchy or fierce, some even looked like they were singing.

“Since I was a very small child, I looked at the shoes and I found that they too were looking at me, each with its own personality and with a particular expression. I saw faces with wide-open mouths, sometimes sleepy, grumbling or ferocious.” Gwen Murphy

Murphy builds her sculpture in exquisite detail with sensitivity to emotional expression, and reference to historic detail. They seem to step out of the pages of a book of fantasy, to live in three dimensions.

She has created hundreds of pairs of shoe sculptures, using only second-hand shoes or shoes found on the street and completing the details of the face with clay and acrylic colors: long faces, pouting lips, Indian slippers have an exotic look, wooden clogs a blissful and primitive look, high-heeled shoes a slightly arrogant look.

Gwen perceived them as a species of beings made entirely from pairs of identical twins, and the fascination with shoes stayed with her all the way through adulthood. Now, she collects pairs of worn-out shoes and tries to bring out their personality, by literally giving them a face.

“I work with ash clay, acrylics, and found objects (particularly discarded shoes) to make my sculpture.   I create the paintings in acrylic, generating the images from surrealist techniques such as collage and blind contour.  The sculpture and the paintings both involve a lot of sanding and layering of paint.” Gwen Murphy

Gwen’s works are a kind of fetish and apparently have the power to protect those who buy them from bad luck.

“A fetish is an object believed to have magical powers to protect or aid its owner I see a shoe as a kind of fetish because it has a presence, and the power to protect and transport us.” Gwen Murphy

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