Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, is known in Greek mythology as the queen of the underworld; a sad fate that she was handed after being abducted by Hades. Often pictured carrying grain, she was known to emerge with the burgeoning of new vegetation each harvest season; she’s now associated with springtime. It’s this vision of the Greek goddess that has inspired L.A.-based artist America Martin, in a rich new series paintings picturing valiant women. “This new series is an ode to spring, to Persephone, when she emerges from the shadows of the underworld, and with her grace makes the flowers bloom, the fruit grow and the winter fade away,” Martin explains. Pursuing her propensity for melding historical references with a bold contemporary style, she achieves vivid success in these new works, which are on view now at Mark Gallery.
Perfectly timed with the onset of spring, Martin portrays robust female forms that fully activate the picture plane, filling negative space with lush plantlife. Each woman, portrayed in the nude, confronts the viewer with wide, contented eyes, holding bouquets of wildflowers, or basking in a field of flora. In works like Two for a Swim or Woman in Gray, the protagonists, perhaps better described as heroines, proudly show off their figures, in playful poses. In others, likeHoneysuckle and Blossoms and Geranium and Apples, Martin exemplifies a skill for delicate patterning, a subtle and effective means through which she creates harmonious compositions, balanced with her thick, characteristic brushstrokes. Each work, portraying a new woman or a pair of them, is a spirited vision that manages to balance ideals of feminism and femininity.
“America Martin: America's Women” is on view at Mark Gallery, Englewood, New Jersey, Apr. 5th–May 22nd, 2014.