Written for the OC Art Blog:
The physicist Carlo Rovelli mentioned in an interview recently that religion was a subject of interest to science but only out of respect for the religious as a group and very little scientific study has been dedicated to finding out the wellspring for a belief in “God” specifically. This aversion to exploring the subject of faith in a manner that approaches a possible “source” is not as lacking in fine art but still incredibly rare. Religious dialogue in art tends to be highly representational with clearly articulated views that speak very much to the way religion plays out sociologically. It is hardly expressed within the realms of the abstract in a way that can be identified or openly discussed.
Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko would often combat the tendency to make abstraction purely abstract, at one point exclaiming, “I am not an abstract painter. I am not interested in the relationship between form and color. The only thing I care about is the expression of man’s basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny.” In essence he believed that something universal stirred inside of us, lived and died within the moment that certain paintings were being actively engaged visually and in that way the viewer was coming very close to the very essence of life or “spirit.”
That sensation of spirit that artists like Rothko sought to activate, viewed through the lens of Christianity, can very well be described as the Holy Spirit. For those who may not be immediately aware of the appropriate context in which to think about the Holy Spirit, intellectually or otherwise, it is the third entity of the Godhead and considered the equal to Christ (the son) and God (the Father). In other words, it is the manifestation of Christ and God within a believer. A Christian’s perception of God. It is important to walk through this basic definition in order to understand the mindset of artist Pamela Diaz Martinez who is currently working on a series of startlingly fluid and unique pastel “renderings” inspired by the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Spirit. There is a subtle distinction to be made in “of the Holy Spirit,” these are portraits coming from within the artist’s perception of God. They are an observational exploration of what God is. The viewer by definition is participating with their eyes but exploring sensation through a cerebral interpretation of visual texture. In viewing Martinez’s work, you are being asked to explore inwardly by engaging in a stimulus created specifically to trigger those things that the individual can only sense within themselves. Much like Rothko, the visual plain is less important to Martinez than the feelings that arise as a result of what the eyes are taking in.
An issue that Martinez’s work shares with other highly successful works of contemporary art is that it is impossible to describe the feeling one gets when standing in its presence and the sensation does not translate graphically (to pictures or reproductions of the work). They are all at once, organic, alien and yet oddly of one kind of feeling. It can only truly be likened to the way one feels when they are in love; the deep inward sensation of emotion inspired by the habits and personality of one particular person over another. One of her drawings may be interesting to one person but another will without a doubt inspire a deeper sense of attachment and esteem and visa versa across all who view them. Each of the oversized textural renderings, reminiscent of feathers or the quills of a porcupine, stand over 8 feet tall, created on wide panels of matte, semi-transparent plastic “paper” called Dura-lar. The sense of movement created by the unique mark making being so convincingly alive that one is sure that they are looking at a detailed rendering of a sentient being, with a fully articulated and unique personality, albeit one not of this world.
Speaking with the Martinez in her home studio in Irvine, in what was a long and interesting conversation covering a wide range of philosophical and theological points, it was clear that although she has strong intentions for the work being seen as spiritual, she is not driven by any sense of expectation as to how her work will be received. Raised Catholic in Arizona, Martinez openly identifies as Christian and considers her faith an idiosyncratic journey. One of the most important aspects of our connection with the world around us is our desire to create and for Martinez the last few years have been a journey back to that place. By creating nonrepresentational works that in the end must be viewed as highly representational, yet are free-flowing and almost trance inducing AND by the artist’s own admission, highly planned out (as is evidenced by her giant inspiration wall covered in small swatches of texture and preliminary drawings), Martinez has managed to bridge every aperture that exists within the dialogue of religion and spirituality. Standing outside of the creative process looking in, you don’t really know what it is that you are actively observing. All you know is that is seems to be coming from a place that is deeply relatable and tremendously powerful.
Martinez has worked for over 9 years as a designer for clients in the fashion industry from Janelle Monae to Chloe. Only recently has she returned to creating fine art. A tremendous period of inspiration for this body of work came when she taught at a Jewish Community Day School where she was constantly exposed to conversations surrounding the nature and existence of God. In addition to exhibiting nationally, Martinez has shown locally in solo-exhibitions at the Latino Art Museum in Pomona, BCSPACE Gallery in Laguna Beach and Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.
She currently lives and works in Irvine, California.
This series will be on display at the Bakersfield Museum of Art from January 22 – April 19, 2015 and then will travel on to Concordia University in the Fall of 2015.
For more information, please visit PDMartinez.com