Inside “The New Figurative” Featuring America Martin
In advance of our current exhibition at JoAnne Artman Gallery NYC we did an interview with artist America Martin. With the opening reception of the show tonight, we look back at excerpts from our conversation that highlight Martin’s studio practice, process, and the continuing inspiration for her most recent body of work. The primary subject of The New Figurative is Martin’s singular focus throughout her practice on the human figure and the narratives that emerge through the framework of form, subject and formal approach. However, in addition to the figure many of the works are populated with unique anthrophomorphic elements such as birds, butterflies and flowers. For Martin, these elements provide both a contextual source of information as well as symbolic significance, progressing the storyline as a representation of personality, mood and character. Here we take a look at two of the works from the show to give context to the conversation.
In Woman & Blue Bird, Martin returns to one of her favorite pairings - the female figure in a composition with birds. The bird is a recurring symbol and theme for Martin, a frequent partner to the female form and often shown interacting with the figure, mouth open in song and the wings open as though about to take flight. In this particular instance, the pairing creates a beautiful contrast between the complexity of line used to create the female figure, and the clear simplicity of the animal form, articulated in only a few simple shapes.
A very different approach is taken with Butterfly Woman II, a delicately drawn work in pencil and paper that is echoed by a larger Butterfly Womanoil and acrylic on canvas piece in the show. Here, the human body is broken down into simple lines and shapes of primary colors, similar to Martin’s treatment of the bird. The shapes seem to float and hover on the surface, echoing both human limbs as well as the triangular spans of the butterfly wings.
JA: How would you describe the space which women occupy in your work?
AM: The female form in my work is my terra ferma and the blue tent of the sky - I am almost bonkers-ly always made happy with capturing a nose, the angle of a hip - deciding to give a foot five or six toes. I started life drawing classes when I was a kid and the female form was a constant - the beauty of that landscape I am never bored by.
JA: Various animals such as birds, rabbits, and snakes often inhabit your work, frequently in composition with the female form, could you talk a little about their significance?
AM: Animals in my work help create the narrative i have in my mind when I’m making a piece. If it’s a rabbit it can mean the woman is so chill that rabbits are willing to frolic about her. If it’s a snake it can mean the woman is strong and able and is at cause over the wild ways of nature - or it just is compositionally nice to put a zig zag shape of a snake in the piece.
JA: Do you feel that your focus or interest has shifted over the years in terms of subject, or is it more of a continuity?
AM: When you do anything for many years - the process changes on you - and this is a blessing and can feel terrible and awkward when it happens but is needed - because it demands your focus to bend - allowing you to see new ways of seeing and making - and because the subject is essentially the same - it makes for an interesting look back over the years.
“THE NEW FIGURATIVE” Featuring America Martin opens Thursday February 8th, with an Artist’s Reception from 6-8pm.
@ JoAnne Artman Gallery 511A West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011.
For more information about the artist or to read the full interview please contact JoAnne Artman at [email protected].