Lou Murphy’s work on display at Center for Faith and the Arts
By Katie Scarvey
When Lou Murphy was in the third grade, she felt it was “perfectly wonderful to make people clap for you,” she says. She dreamed of being an actor, and she’s been a fine one, with many roles with Piedmont Players Theatre and the St. Thomas Players.
Acting, however, is only one of Lou’s artistic gifts.
Offstage, she’s best known as an artist. Now 86, she continues to paint when she can. She also teaches life drawing classes.
An exhibit of Lou’s work will be at the Center for Faith and the Arts through May 29.
The opening reception is 5-7 p.m. Thursday, April 23. The event is free and open to the public.
Lou ó her real name is Marie-Louise ó grew up on the west coast, in Pasadena and Los Angeles, and attended the University of Southern California and UCLA, majoring in speech.
She served in World War II in the Navy as a WAVE for 16 months, working mostly as a legal secretary on a base in what is now the Silicon Valley.
She was one of only 125 women among 3,000 men there.
Her experience as a WAVE was a fulfilling one.
“I had a good war,” she says. “People today don’t understand what it’s like for everybody to be behind an effort.”
She met her first husband, Jim Cook, when she was serving in San Francisco. They moved to Mississippi, where she finished college at the University of Southern Mississippi.
As Lou describes her grandmother, you get a sense that she comes from a line of strong, independent women. Jeanne Moreau was a designer and a single mother who lived in Greece, China, Mexico, and Egypt, finally settling in New York City. She sent her daughter, Laure (Lou’s mother), to a convent school in France. When Laure was 17, the two of them moved to New York together, where Jeanne designed clothing for the likes of Mrs. Enrico Caruso.
Laure met William Paine ó Lou’s father ó on the day he arrived home from France, where he had served in World War II and then attended school in Bordeaux. He hailed from Alabama.
He was a huge presence in Lou’s life.
“I was very imprinted by my father,” Lou says. “I liked Southern men, the way they treated women.”
When her marriage to Jim broke up, Lou moved back to Los Angeles. She then met Hayden Clement, her second husband.
He was also a Southerner who was bright and fun and could make her laugh and cry.
“I don’t know what it is about Southern men,” she says. “They all love to tell stories,” she says, which is part of the attraction.
She and Hayden started their family in Los Angeles. They had a daughter, Lee, and a son, Hayden. (Lee Piper lives in Salisbury, and Hayden Clement lives in Los Angeles.)
Lou started painting when she was about 30, she says, getting serious about it when she was in her 40s.
“I never have been the full-time painter I should have been,” she says, because of many other interests and responsibilities.
But art was an important part of her life. Although she never went to art school, she took workshops when she could and also taught herself.
She moved with Hayden and her children to Salisbury, Hayden’s hometown, in 1971, after spending a year in England.
It didn’t take her long to immerse herself in the social and cultural life of Salisbury.She threw herself into acting, among other things, and had memorable roles in “Lion in Winter,” “Mame,” “Foxfire,” and “Walking Across Egypt,” among others.She started the United Arts Council and was active in the Rowan Art Guild. As she learned more about what other communities around the state were doing, she discovered that Salisbury had more to offer than any other city its size.
It still does, she says.
Hayden Clement died in 1981. Several years later, Lou later married Dr. Lynch Murphy, a Salisbury gastroenterologist and yes, also a Southerner. They currently live in Trinity Oaks Retirement Community.
In 1995, Lou exhibited her work at Waterworks Visual Arts Center. She has painted several angels for the Angels of Salisbury display and one of her paintings was featured on the Rowan Helping Ministries honor card in 1996.
In the last 10 years or so, she has had more time to devote to painting. Currently, she works mostly in oils, when she has time. She enjoys plein air painting and portraiture. “Art fulfills a creative need,” she says. “It’s satisfying to see yourself grow as an artist.”
Gallery hours at Center for Faith and the Arts are 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The center is located in the basement of Haven Lutheran Church, 207 W. Harrison St. Parking is available in back of the church.
For more information, call 704 647-0999.