Artist finds freedom in expression

Valton Murray sold his first piece of art when he was 10 years old.

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Local artist Valton Murray's artwork is on display at Health South-Walton Rehabilitation Hospital as part of a touring exhibition from Georgia Artists with DisAbilities.  Murray's works are among 50 chosen for the exhibit from a juried show of 250 entries in Atlanta in September.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Local artist Valton Murray's artwork is on display at Health South-Walton Rehabilitation Hospital as part of a touring exhibition from Georgia Artists with DisAbilities. Murray's works are among 50 chosen for the exhibit from a juried show of 250 entries in Atlanta in September.

“I liked to draw cars. I had a buddy – he liked cars. My first drawing, I made a nickel off of it,” said Murray.

When he was 12, he took art up in earnest.

Murray was born with polio, and he had just undergone surgery to correct his clubbed feet when his aunt gave him a watercolor set as a gift.

The day he was released from the hospital he used the set to paint his first picture.

That was 48 years ago, and he has been painting ever since.

His artwork will be on display through April 30 at HealthSouth-Walton Rehabilitation Hospital as part of the Georgia Artists with DisAbilities exhibit.

The 50 works that will be on display were chosen as award winners from 250 pieces entered in the Georgia Artists with DisAbilities juried art show, held in Atlanta in September.

Murray said he has won an award every year he has entered since 1988.

Between his own disabilities and caring for his disabled son, who can’t walk or talk, Murray doesn’t have much opportunity to show his work.

That’s why he appreciates the Artists with DisAbilities program.

“That’s a good outlet through them to get my work out to the public,” he said.” A lot of people see my work, and they get in touch with me through them.”

That’s what the program is all about, said program chairwoman Nancy Shealy.

“For a lot of (artists with disabilities), this is the only way they have to get out into the public and show their work,” she said. “For a lot of them, when they sell pieces, this is their only income.”

“A number of our artists have been able to show other places
in Georgia because of exposure
from Artists with Disabilities,” she said.

The artists receive all of the proceeds from the sale of their work. To participate in the program the artist must be disabled and must reside in Georgia.

Artists with DisAbilities was created in 1985 by the Pilot Clubs of Metro Atlanta. For many years it has made a stop at Walton Rehab in Augusta.

Art became a type of therapy for Murray, who also suffered from a nervous disorder that often caused seizures and awful headaches.

The disorder caused his hands to shake, but now he’s able to hold his hands steady and he attributes that fact to his art.

“I believe painting has healed my nervous problem,” he said.

He said the inspiration for many of his paintings come from memories of growing up in rural McDuffie County, and sometimes they come from his dreams.

His winning painting, Field Workers, depicts people working in a cotton field.

“I remember as a little boy seeing people chopping cotton and stuff, and that’s how I came up with that one,” he said.


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