About

A Mission School writer, AÍFE MURRAY has incorporated installation, performance, mixed media artists’ books, and map making to tell stories about those who have been erased.

Aífe is the author of Maid as Muse: how servants changed Emily Dickinson’s life and language (non-fiction finalist, Northern California Book Award) which is the culminating piece of a transdisciplinary project – KITCHEN TABLE POETICS – that also included xerography, silkscreen, installation, poetry, tours, and performance art. In the late 90s  she created and led her first walking tour of the Dickinson servants’ Amherst which was co-narrated by servant descendants and current Dickinson Museum house cleaners and gardeners. Aífe [EE-fah] collaborated with these same cleaners and gardeners on the artist book Art of Service. These were included in the Mead Art Museum’s Word as Object: Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art.

For LitCrawl NYC 2012 Aífe created the interactive An Emily Dickinson Sense Surround with the poet’s favorite music performed live, cakes to sample from her favorite recipes, typical plants and flowers she once grew, and the recitation of poems and family stories told around a kitchen table set with baking and garden tools of the kind favored by the poet (with collaborators Marta McDowell, David Giovacchini, and Cynthia Dickinson). In 2015 — for her #OldSkillsNewMinds — Aífe taught Dickinson enthusiasts to bake the poet’s prized cakes with the same methods and tools Emily Dickinson herself used in the 19th century.

She has been in-residence at the Emily Dickinson Museum; was an affiliated scholar with Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Gender; the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation Fellow at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program; and named the 2007 Scholar in Amherst by the Emily Dickinson International Society.

Aífe is currently working on STAND UP & BE COUNTED.

One piece focuses on her grandmother going toe to toe with the KKK in The Ku Klux Klan at Home in Hillsdale. For this work she was awarded a research fellowship from the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History and writing fellowships at the Millay Colony, where she was the Corrine Steel & Synnova Bay Hayes Fellow, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers. Link to an introduction on Medium: Remembrance Versus Reverence or download a PDF of The KKK at Home in Hillsdale at this NJS site.

Another part of SUBC – We Bused in New Haven – occurs forty years after the KKK encounters, when Aífe participated in a Brown-implementation case to accelerate the desegregation of her New England school district. For this work she received an alumni residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

A few years ago Aífe made a deep dive into Spanish, a language that has been tugging at her since the 60s and infusing her ear. For NO HAY CAMINO she writes daily in this unmastered language, always making her path (as Antonio Machado wrote) by walking.

Previous transdisciplinary works – based in San Francisco’s Mission District of the 80s and 90s – include A WOMAN SCRATCHED ON IVORY (incl. mixed media artists’ books) exhibited in San Francisco at Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center and Intersection for the Arts and published in Everything Is Real Except the Obvious (Em Press, Mill Valley, CA 1990).