Taking men as their named subject, the works clearly engage dialogues of gender and masculinity. Murray’s men are not so easy to understand, neither affirming nor denying stereotypes outright; the men can be pensive, contented, shifty or sexy, but often seem in some way wounded or disjointed, as well. Though the men are often pictured alone, their roles in families, friendships and relationships are suggested as central to their lives. Also apparent are the different ages of the pictured men – a wily inclination for adventure in a boy’s smile is contrasted against more guarded, inscrutable expressions of reflection in Murray’s older subjects.
Just as important as the subjects themselves are their backgrounds: neighborhoods and domestic scenes throughout the New York borough of Queens. The settings can vary from generic to cloyingly homey; both “Anywhere, USA” and so identifiably specific to the families, owners, and inhabitants. These existences are further echoed through a milieu of class signifiers: Catholic school, fading tattoos, “wife-beater” tanks, or upholstered rocker-recliners. Such mundane details act as suggestive clues for the viewer, piecing together a narrative to overlay on the stoic images: is it a story of class-anxiety or of contented suburban life? Do the men feel regret, pride, or some indecipherable mix of the two? Murray tries to be neither intrusive nor distanced, capturing vulnerability but never violating trust for the men and places she takes as her subjects.