ART AT TSION: JESUS MARTINEZ /OIL | AMOR DE TO TIERRA NUYORICAN
I’m a Nuyorican born in Brooklyn, raised mostly in the Bronx with a couple of periods of living in Puerto Rico, first as a pre-teen and then in my early thirties in San Juan. I was born in the early 1960’s to a large extended working-class family who brought their own stew of influences between the Puerto Rican and American cultural scenes. We lived in Butler Houses – public housing in the late 1960s early 70s, I recall fragments of the social justice and civil rights protests in the Bronx during the period. At present, I’m a full-time psychotherapist and part time artist. Part time only in the execution of the painting but, more importantly, full time artist in terms of always aware of searching for subject matter. I live to “see and create”.
I have been drawing and sketching since around the age of 8 or 9. Significantly, at the age of 10 through 12 my family moved to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and it is there that I became enamored of maps and skylines of cities. At that moment, in the place, I became aware that cities weren’t infinite entities but had limits and boundaries with different shapes and forms dictated by their respective environments. In the States cities were in significant sprawl into suburban spaces and without form. The interest in landscapes, shapes, cities and building spurred a goal of becoming an architect. Although I never pursued a career in architecture, I believe this early period really deepened a love of shape and form. More importantly, drawing intricate maps also became a way of imposing order on a chaotic family environment. Consequently, art and map making became a vehicle for imposing order and a semblance of control in my own life.
As I’ve matured, being bilingual and bicultural has influenced and informed my choices of artistic preoccupations and representations of cultural figures, especially musicians. I’m drawn to a broad range of musical genres and its reflected in the iconic figures I represent in my recent paintings. Moreover, some of the following challenges have also helped shape and continue to shape my thinking about what I do artistically, such as my own sexual orientation, coming of age during the AIDs crisis and being HIV+ (Out Positive) for over 30 years, being Latino and being a minority with its attendant prejudices in our country infusing my consciousness. Consequently, all of these factors and many more are part of my artistic stew or “mi sancocho artistico”, that I expect will find full expression, in time, through my art.
After a hiatus from doing art shows, and actively painting, I returned to art after teaching at the Hunter School of Social Work for several semesters realizing that I missed being an active visual artist. The occasional paintings and drawings weren’t enough for my psyche. This period was marked by my graduate education and early establishment of my Social Worker self and subsequent private practice psychotherapist. Today I seek to create art that is reflective of my love of architecture especially in cityscapes and paintings of NYC bridges. I seek to represent artistic figures—musical and literary—that are from my present neighborhood: Harlem, Washington Heights, Sugar Hill as well as the broader city. On the one hand, I’m interested in these local and former residents as represented in my portraits; on the other hand, I also have a love of flowers and the influenced by Henri Matisse and Andre’ Derain amongst others. Additionally, many impressionist painters like Gaugin, Renoir and Van Gogh have also been strong influences.
Insofar as technique is concerned, I tend to paint wet-on-wet oftentimes mixing colors right on the canvas; making the canvas a sculptural mélange of oils. I’m often drawn to vibrant colors most recently using a lot of black canvases in order to have the figure jump forward. Consequently, the figure is pushing outward whilst the viewer seeks to enter the canvas visually. Moreover, removing most, if not all the context in recent black background paintings allows them to float free of a specific time and context allowing them to seem more eternal, sometimes ethereal aiming towards iconic.
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