The Coast News Group
A bronze panther by sculptor Gwynn Murrill can be seen on the hills behind the Lux Art Institute. Courtesy photo
ArtsRancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Artist-in-residence known for elegant style

ENCINITAS — Kids ages 4-plus and their families are invited to hike the hills behind the Lux Art Institute and down the nature trail through sculptor Gwynn Murrill’s exhibit of panthers, cougars, eagles, parrots — even cats and dogs — on Family Friday.

Artist Gwynn Murrill with her animal sculptures which are on exhibit at the Lux Art Institute until May 19. Courtesy photo
The event is scheduled between 1 and 4 p.m. April 27 with a docent leading kid-friendly tours every 20 minutes. It is followed by a scavenger hunt where children will identify 15 thumbnail photos of plants, sculptures and architectural designs.

Afterward they will go indoors for a hands-on project making clay sculptures. Visitors can make an afternoon of Family Friday by packing a lunch or after-school snack that can be enjoyed outside before the tour. Previous Family Friday outings have proven to be popular, with a turnout of 70 to 100 children and their parents.

“We created Family Friday to encourage families to take advantage of the world-class artists and exhibitions that Lux brings right to their community,” Kara Leen, education director, said. “The program represents a great opportunity for families to explore art, nature and the creative process in a fun and enriching environment. And it’s super affordable and convenient — a win, win, win!”

Artist-in-residence Gwynn Murrill has become known for the elegant simplicity and accuracy of her animal sculptures, particularly details such as eyes, individual coloring and texture of fur and feathers.

“It is a challenge to try and take the form that nature makes so well and to derive my own interpretation of it,” she said.

After graduating from UCLA with a BFA and MFA in painting, Murrill embarked instead on a career in sculpture.

“Painting involved too much instruction, not enough spontaneity,” she said looking back. “I made wood sculpture for the next 10 years.

“Then I wanted to do marble. I was excited to be awarded the Prix di Rome fellowship. It was the first time I ever was really paid to be an artist.”

Murrill initially taught herself how to carve marble, then became more immersed in the entire process and began experimenting.

“I had the ability to make three-dimensional sculpture when I started,” she said. “Overtime I developed something I didn’t expect. I thought I’d be an abstract sculptor, but somehow I became a figurative artist.”

In the early 1980s she began creating her signature animal sculptures in bronze.

“I was interested in their forms, the way they move, and their lines,” she said. “I live in the Santa Monica Mountains and see coyotes and bobcats. I’ve done a lot of birds and hawks and eagles that are around me. I also do a lot of cats and dogs.”

Sculptor Gwynn Murrill’s favorite sculpture is of her dog. Koa is both the name of her dog and the type of wood used to create Koa. Courtesy photo

A sculpture of Koa, her shepherd and greyhound mixed-breed dog, is part of her exhibit at Lux Art Institute. She says it’s her favorite sculpture.

“She’s brindle and looks like koa wood,” Murrill said, adding that she made the sculpture from 40-year-old koa wood she got from her husband’s uncle in Hawaii.

“The poignancy of the sculpture really does remind me of my dog,” she said. “I captured the spirit of something that I was looking for. Usually things don’t turn out that way. It’s close.”

Murrill’s exhibit will be showcased again at the next Family Friday event on May 18. The exhibit ends the following day.

Studio admission is free for members and individuals under 21; and $5 for nonmembers. The hands-on art project is free for up to two kids with one paid adult admission. (Bring ticket stub from studio visit.) Additional kids are $5 each. Free for members and their children. No registration required.

Lux Art Institute is located at 1550 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas. For more information, email [email protected] or call (760) 436-6611.