Blog 2

Elizabeth Murray, “Everybody Knows,” 2007. Oil on canvas, 87 1/4 x 93 inches.

I sense the beautiful when I contemplate this work, and believe that it could be judged to be art.

According to Moment 3 – Relation – in Kant’s Judgment of Taste, the viewer should feel a sense of purposiveness without purpose, the free-play of the imagination and a sense of mystery.

This work by Elizabeth Murray, entitled “Everybody Knows” (2007) satisfies Moment 3 – Relation – in my judgment. My mind wants to understand and find purpose here, I want to find a rule while gazing at this, but I feel a sense of mystery instead. This is inciting my imagination as my eyes wander, trying to take it all in. As Kant asserts, “Only where the imagination in its freedom awakens the understanding and is put by it into regular play, without the aid of concepts, does the representation communicate itself, not as a thought, but as an internal feeling of a purposive state of the mind” (PAB 313).

Douglas Dreishpoon, Chief Curator Emeritus at Albright-Knox Art Gallery, articulates his thoughts on this work by saying, “The calligraphic clarity of the late work makes it easy to read. Characters square off, connect and disconnect. Shapes set off by interstitial space breathe easily. Murray’s unique lexicon is by now in full play. Colors are saturated, intensified, keyed up. The work naturally feels buoyant, but comic overtones don’t necessarily mitigate somber undertones. By this time, Murray had mastered a symbolic language, knowing full well that symbols, like dreams, are ambiguous and unpredictable. Her notion of painting accepted truth as a question with no definitive answer.” Dreishpoon’s analysis of this art sounds like a perfect description of Moment 3 in itself. He is saying that this work is appealing and masterful because it is unpredictable and bold and provides no definitive answers.

Copy and paste this link for access to Dreishpoon’s article:

Someone might counter that, when analyzing this picture, it’s too nonsensical and doesn’t reflect nature. But I would argue and call to their own mind that universal experience of dream landscapes, where nonsense often underscores our unconscious experiences of nature and laws of nature.



  1. kathrynchuc says:

    Hi, Kathy!
    I can’t stop looking at this picture because I just don’t know what it is!!! I think you are absolutely right when you talk about Moment 3- Relation. It’s almost as if there is a story or an explanation in what I’m seeing here, but I just can’t figure it out…which makes me want to stare at it more!!! -Really intriguing blog post!


    1. kathydsimmons says:

      Whew! Thanks, Kathryn! I’m glad it’s not just me. I really appreciated this painting more than I would have after learning about moment 3 and the idea of free play of the imagination. That’s exactly what this feels like to me. I want answers, but I’m genuinely content just to look at it too…


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