Sean Murdock's most recent artwork is loud, flashy, fashionable, and in your face. He is not. On the contrary, the artist is soft-spoken, compassionate, and describes himself as introspective. The work features line art depictions of sexy fashion models he has photographed against bold, neon backgrounds — a reflection of his engagement with the Miami fashion scene, and the ostentatious culture of South Florida in general.
"It's almost a mockery of the fashion world as much as it is a beautiful person there," he says. In one of the pieces, a model gives the bird flanked by the words "Fuck Fashion."
At year's end, Murdock will be letting go of this period of his work, and life, in order to start fresh in California in an Airstream RV. Before casting off, he'll host the Art Ransom event at the Bubble on December 30, at which all of his art will be ritualistically sacrificed in a fire unless collectors grab it up in the auction.
Sean Murdock Art Ransom, with DJs Xristian and Odium. 6:30 p.m. Friday, December 30, at the Bubble, 810 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $5 until 9 p.m., $10 after 9. Visit independentworkingartistnetwork.com.
Originally, the idea was to lighten his physical load before crossing the country — a move that is mainly inspired by his inability to deal with the brutal Florida summer heat. But the art fire concept has grown into something deeper for him. "It's almost a feeling of releasing my life here," he says. Also, it's a chance for friends to grab his pieces for cheap, as they will be going for far, far less than they've been selling for recently. For example, pieces that went for $4,000 at Art Basel will be available for as little as $200.
Though there is some commentary present within these works, Murdock encourages people not to look too deeply into them. "This series is about fun. Sometimes we get so deep into ourselves and the issues in the world that we can't pull ourselves out to the simple surface of it. I really enjoy it being just a little bit surface at the moment."
After moving on from an artist commune and rave scene in Fort Myers and graduating from the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Murdock has experienced breakthroughs in his artistic approach. Previously, he struggled to merge the skills and connections he developed as a professional fashion photographer with his more personal creative urges.
Eventually, as the result of much experimentation, he discovered a complex and secret process that allows him to transfer large renderings of his photographs onto fluorescent painted wood. The most iconic image produced during his life here features a naked gal wearing an oversized bunny mask slouching next to the bold, stenciled phrase: Fuck Me I'm An Artist (not a pickup line, but a phrase of exhaustion). The image was the first in a continuing series of "bunny" pieces, which Murdock describes as his "me stuff," compared with the sexy lady works he makes to appeal to others.
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The resulting work brings '80s-inspired flare into the world of street art, and it's earned him not only collectors and distinction but imitators — which doesn't bother him.
"I think all artists have to grow up through mimic, which is how all humans grow up," he says. "You can't not copy the things around you." To ensure he stays two steps ahead, though, he switches up his method and never takes short cuts: "I'm always looking for a process that is so difficult that no one would ever want to bother doing it."
Murdock looks forward to a time in the future when he will be a teacher by profession. First, though, he's got some work to do on the ground.
"I want to have the coolest career for my students to look at. They need to have a really high bar so that they can outdo me someday." If his recent accomplishments are any indication of where he's headed, he is well on his way to banking a wealth of cred to impress future students. He says with relaxed confidence that this is "only the beginning." The artwork may not catch fire until December 30, but it seems apparent that the artist himself already has.