Mesa Center for the Arts: Monica Martinez, Carolyn Lavender, and Mary Shindell

Then Entry to the exhibit Creature, Man, Nature

The entry to the exhibit “Creature, Man, Nature.”

On Friday April 5 Superstition Review editors met with s[r] contributors Monica Martinez, Carolyn Lavender, and Mary Shindell to discuss their collaborative exhibition at Mesa Center for the Arts. The exhibition, entitled “Creature, Man, Nature,” explores the formation of bodies—animal, human, and rock—and the voices inherent in each form. When I walked into the exhibition, I was immediately struck by the size of several of the pieces on display. As Carolyn later told me, there is a certain power that comes from artwork that is as big as or bigger than oneself. This was true of Monica’s work, specifically a pair of massive paintings of the male and female forms, hence the “Man” portion of the exhibition title. Monica explained how her intensive study of human anatomy allowed for highly accurate portrayals of bodily structures, as well as a literal frame through which she could explore male and female energies. She challenges the traditional patriarchal energy by including feminine qualities in her male figure (modeled by her husband).

Monica Aissa Martinez

Monica Aissa Martinez describes her work.

Monica’s pieces, “Body Male” and “Female Body,” draw in the viewer through the visceral anatomic imagery coupled with animal figures. In her painting of a female figure, she includes a snake, which instantly brings to mind ideas of the Christian creationist mythos wherein the snake functions as an antagonistic figure. However, the female faces the snake head-on as an equal, accepting of the snake as symbolic of knowledge, rebirth, and sexual passion. Conversely, the male figure is presented with a cat between his feet, modeled by Monica’s own pet. Her husband trained the cat to walk on a leash; due to this curious skill, the cat connected Monica’s family to the rest of her community, a traditionally feminine quality exhibited in conjunction with the male form. Directly beside Monica’s human subjects, Mary’s digital art piece, “There is a Mountain” is a room-wide print of her backyard view, fashioned on the program Illustrator. 26 layers allowed for the tiny details, such as sage bushes and cacti, to be created on a mountainside of elegant color and texture. Mary had had plenty of experience with her subject, having sketched and painted South Mountain multiple times prior to attempting a digital rendition. As she said, South Mountain dominates the landscape with its sprawling hills, and the size of the print, dominating an entire wall of the exhibition room, communicated the grand scale of the mountainside well.

Mary Shindell

Mary Shindell describes her work.

Mary explained to me the meticulous process of piecing together the different components of “There is a Mountain.” The minor details, like plant life, had to be modified outside of Illustrator in another program, such as Photoshop, so as not to overtax the main image file, and would then be incorporated back into Illustrator as a repeatable symbol. In order to create a soft, rolling effect for the mountain itself, Mary used the gradient feature, which she identified to be her favorite part of the process. As a whole, the intricate and time-consuming details paid off; viewers will be amazed to see the piece both at a distance and up close. The exhibition also benefited from Mary’s input for the lighting. Hanging light sculptures emulate the cacti in Mary’s backyard, functioning as relevant sculptures for the larger mountain view.

I addressed Carolyn’s art last, having finally made my way around the exhibition room. Carolyn’s work focused on the “Creature” aspect of the exhibition title, introducing a variety of animal figures on large panels as well as smaller paper sketches and paintings. She described her love of animals to me as that of childish fascination, a love fostered in her early years and carried firmly into adulthood. Her largest piece, “Preservation Woods,” features animals sketched and painted (acrylic) from photo and taxidermy models onto 10 foam-core panels. Carolyn explained to me how long the piece took to create, requiring 8-10 hours of tracing per panel.

Carolyn Lavendar

Carolyn Lavender describes her work.

With that in mind, the raw, openness of the piece, fully compiled, hardly transmits the idea of “incomplete” or “unfinished” but of intentional invitation, drawing viewers’ eyes from the broad white expanses of the bottom panels to the detailed shadows of each animal figure. While Carolyn told me that there are still bits that she would like to work on (as with any piece of art), she was pleased with the outcome of her efforts and considered “Preservation Woods” to have been a learning experience, having never worked on so large a scale before this exhibition.

Leaving the exhibition after interviewing these three artists, I felt encouraged to pursue art myself. Each artist approached her craft in a different fashion, and this collaboration no doubt impacted those approaches. I look forward to seeing the future works of Monica, Mary, and Carolyn, and I hope that the exhibition inspires others.

The Banner

Outside the Mesa Arts Center Museum.

The exhibition “Man, Creature, Nature” is on display at the Mesa Arts Center until April 28.

 

Interview with Monica Aissa Martinez

SR conducted this interview with Issue 9 contributor Monica Aissa Martinez.

Monica Aissa Martinez

Superstition Review: If you could give your past self any advice what would it be?

Monica Martinez: I would tell my past self to get out of her comfort zone more readily and as often as possible where art is concerned.

SR: How did you first get involved in your field? 

MM: I made the decision to attend college and headed right to art school. It was the only thing I thought I could really do. One thing led to another and here I am. Continuing to make art is probably my greatest achievement continuing to exhibit follows. But I am also pleased that private and public collectors have purchased my work, as it continues to be seen and experienced. That means a lot to me. I want my work out in the world. And it is.

élan vital, my first solo was a hugely important experience for me. It was a beautiful space, with a professional organization. The brochure was well written. The show ran six months; many, including foreign visitors, saw it. I sold numerous works. It stands out as a turning point because I solicited them and they accepted my proposal. I had that wonderful experience as an initiation exhibit, which lead to many more opportunities, and solidified the idea that I could work as an artist.

SR: Have you ever tried to work in other creative areas?

MM: I have a knack for illustration but I’ve not thought of going into that area. I enjoy photography, and photograph people now and again. Not for exhibition, but yes, professionally. I did do stage design. I have been a teaching artist for a number of years now.  I used to go into the schools around the valley and teach mask making, story telling through art making. Currently I am an adjunct at Phoenix College. I teach Drawing. I enjoy the work very much. And with all my years of experience it allows me to pass on what I have learned, and what I know.

SR: Please give us some background biographical information. 

Monica’s Studio

I am originally from El Paso, Texas. I come from a large family. Education, arts and culture are a priority in my family. I am currently living in Phoenix with my husband and cat.

I received a BFA in Ceramics and Metals, at the University of Texas at El Paso.

I received my Masters of Fine Arts at New Mexico State University. Area of emphasis was Drawing and Printmaking. I covered 2D AND 3D both before I settled into my current areas of work: drawing, painting and printmaking. I also make masks. Though I don’t exhibit my masks.

I have been awarded solo exhibitions. That’s pretty valuable for development and growth as an artist.

My work has exhibited in the Phoenix Art Museum (Local’s Only), the Tucson Museum of Art (AZ biennial ’09), the ASU Art Museum (Here and Now), and Tempe Center for the Arts, Mesa Arts Center, and the Scottsdale Center for the Arts (solo). My work has been seen internationally, and is part of numerous private and public collections including: New Mexico State University, Mesa Arts Center, Phoenix Municipal Court House, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary of Art, Arizona State University, and Brigham Young University.

My drawing, paintings and prints are featured in three publications through the Hispanic Research Center and Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue of Arizona State University. Both ASU and the University of Norte Dame have commissioned me to create limited edition prints. My alma mater, New Mexico State University has purchased four of my works, three of those purchases were more recent. They invited me to come back as a visiting artist and lecture. It was a bit out of body. I also exhibited and lectured at the University of Texas (my other alma mater).

My work has been published in a number of books put out by the Hispanic Research Center on the ASU campus a number of years ago. Since then I have received emails from students across the country, and including an MFA student in Monterrey Mexico connecting with me only to discuss my artwork. The latter included my work and commentary in her thesis. All of that means a lot to me.

SR: Do you have any projects or pieces you’re currently working on?

MM: Right now I am preparing for a 3-person exhibit scheduled to open January 25 and run thru May 5, 2013, at the Mesa Center for the Arts. The artwork in Superstition Review will be featured.

SR: What inspired you to create your piece for Issue 9 of Superstition Review?

MM: That particular drawing is influenced by a book I am reading titled New Self – New World by Philip Shepherd. It deals with planet earth, man and animal, the connection between them. It also deals with the need for balance of the masculine and the feminine / matriarchy / patriarchy, in current times.

It’s my very current direction, all new artwork. A new direction. I am working out new ideas. The one main piece is the largest I’ve ever worked on, and it took such a long time to complete. I am glad to have a photo for you. This image I am including with this text, is the second large work of the series.

SR: Do you have a website or is your work linked to any other websites, blog posts, or news stories?

You can read more about Monica Aissa Martinez at http://monicaaissamartinez.com/ and  http://monicaaissamartinez.wordpress.com/

Work in Progress, Detail