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Remembering Chatham Murray

We are mourning our dear friend Chatham Murray, who died earlier this week. We loved her gentle voice and unwavering idealism, her warm and vivid painting style, her perfect front porch and perfectly imperfect garden, and, most of all, her compassion and kindness and friendship. For many decades, she was a defining participant in the hand-built, homegrown, human-scale alternative universe of Athens, GA—as an art student, artist, newspaperwoman, sign painter, landlady, gardener and community activist. She was fiercely independent, instinctively feminist, effortlessly beautiful, politically committed and proudly decoupled from the relentless machine of mainstream American life. When she visited us in L.A. (and later, Atlanta), i was reminded of the accounts of Frida Kahlo when she was forced to visit the U.S.: You could feel her discomfort in the megacity, her desire to get back to her plants and her dirt and her paint, and her profound concern that humanity had constructed something unsustainable, self-destructive & insane. When I was at her place, I always felt like I was home. I wish I could live up to the standard she set for healing the world and making it more beautiful. And I wish I could see her again, walking through the kudzu with her afternoon glass of wine and her happy dogs.

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