ARTISTIC VISION BORN OF SAN LUIS VALLEY
by Renee Fajardo
is a youthful gentle man who looks a full
15 years younger than his age of 62.
A devoted family
man, an avid bicycler and a retired Adams 12 elementary school teacher, he has finally found the time to pursue his passion for painting. Fortunately for aficionados of Chicano art, Martinez has saved the best for last.
After finishing graduate school at Adams State with an M.A. in education, Martinez moved to Denver where he began working for Adams County Public School Dist. 12 in 1963. He met his wife Jan Rothacker shortly afterwards at a school where they both were teaching.
“For 38 years we both taught and raised out family,” Martinez said of his three grown children. “The biggest motivating factor that kept me teaching all those years, next to providing for my family, was the opportunity to teach art to the students,” he laughed.
With no formal training in art, he began to take art classes at C.U. and U.N.C. after he started teaching. His wife is quick to point out how Martinez showed signs of an artistic soul early in the marriage. “Some days I would come home from work and he would have repainted the walls in our house some amazing color scheme and rearranged the entire layout of our home,” his wife Jan said.
Martinez seemed drawn to art and surrounded himself with music, artwork and books. He was enthralled by the art of Malcolm Furlow, John Nieto and Fritz Scholder. He began to study the composition and color schemes of the renowned artists. All known for their bold contemporary works on Native Americans, Martinez developed a style of his own, in many ways similar to these artists, but at the same time very different.
What makes Martinez’ paintings unique is their mystical and pragmatic nature. From contemporary abstracts to his Native American pieces, his artistic imaginings are bold, colorful and energetic. His pieces stand out from others of the genre because his subjects reach out emotionally to the viewer. Unlike Scholder’s expressionless subjects, Martinez’ images evoke a sense of sorrow, angst, anger and a whole gamut of other emotions.
However, Martinez is not a man given to hidden meanings and symbols, but rather to the texture and harmony of his inspiration. “I get a sense of what I want to paint,” Martinez stated, “and then I just put brush to canvas. It flows like a song with each stroke of paint I feel the power of the painting begin to manifest itself. I leave the interpretation open to the viewer. I want to create works that are not only a source of enjoyment but also compelling.”
ularly haunting piece entitled Rosa is frontal view of a Native American woman dressed in a traditional with huipili
wearing a rose colored shawl over her head and shoulders. The woman appears to be looking back at the viewer. Rosa draws the audience in with her sense of urgency and sorrow. The piece is lovely and interesting, yet of a secret we all long to know.
is a striking piece of a blue-faced Native brave. Although the work is painted depicting a night sky and a full blood-red moon, the portrait is illuminating and mystical. Again the brave is looking head on at the viewer and in the background it appears there
is another face also looking at the viewer. The colors in typical Martinez style are bold and vibrant. It is as if one is seeing the world aglow by moonlight and spirit fire.
Martinez humbly said, “I paint what I am inspired to paint. The images I paint are based in a large part on the people I met growing up. We visited family and friends on the Pueblos for Feast Days and ceremonies. The Penitentes, the Church, the Valley, the whole experience of growing up in the San Luis and New Mexico influenced me more than I ever realized. It is only now that I have time to reflect and paint that I realize the deep connection I have with valley. I feel blessed to be able to put what I see on canvas.”
Martinez’ talent is like an underground spring. It has always been. It has trickled and flowed through every phase of his life. From student to teacher to husband and father, the spring has nurtured and sustained this quiet man and now it is transforming the landscape of his life.
Martinez paints visions fed by the healing waters of his creative wellspring. He quenches the desire in all of us to see and be felt. His subjects are our tias and tios, our visabuelos, our primos, our antepasados. We see ourselves in his subjects – we are Mexican, we are Indian, we are Chicanos – we are Americans. And Martinez is finally painting what he was born to paint.