Changes Afoot

All of the material on this blog – and all future posts – is now on martinhousestudio.wordpress.com.  Come on over!  And keep an eye out for malissamartin.wordpress.com, which will focus on writing rather than art.


In my studio

I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten some nice press recently.  Here’s the latest.  And I’m delighted to be featured along with my precious friend Liza…who is also one of the members of the recently formed women’s art collective, Four Rooms.  (More on that later!)  I will say that I thought the photographer was coming to take shots of my work, not me, so I was completely unprepared…no makeup, hair pushed up in a clip, old studio clothes on because I was working.  But no sacrifice is too great for our art, right?  Vanity went right out the window.  And that’s okay.


And in this case, I mean a little newspaper coverage.  Now, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it occurred to me a year after the fact (yes, a year) that I could share the online posting of an article about my studio that ran in the local paper prior to the 2009 Lawrence ArtWalk.  When I was interviewed for a related article in 2010, I made the above-referenced great mental leap forward.  So here we go…a little press about yours truly.  (And I am typing this in total faith that I am going to be able to successfully link to said press…)

2009 – Room to Work: Artists Balance Function, Style in Studios

2010 – Local Artists Open Homes, Studios for Lawrence ArtWalk

On this Father’s Day, I’m thinking (rather emotionally) of my father, a not uncommon occurrence for a day such as this.  And what I’m thinking of most is his love for all things creative. 

He collected art, Western and Native American in particular.  He pored through every issue of Southwest Art, loved the galleries in Santa Fe, and was always excited to share his latest find.   

He was passionate about live music, and it little mattered what form it took…iconic late-night jazz in a dark dive where he shouldn’t have taken his daughters, but he didn’t want us to miss a thing.  Broadway musicals, high school choir concerts, the opera, a country band at a Texas icehouse…it didn’t matter; if the music was on, he was there.

He read poetry, watched live theatre, sought every opportunity for his three daughters to learn and become a part of creative pursuits.  And while he practiced none of these things he so loved, he was monumentally proud of the wife and daughters and grandchildren who did.   

I’ve been thinking and writing about creativity lately, about how it feels to exercise it, to make something, to take an idea and coax/work/pummel it into existence.  And interestingly, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes it’s enough – more than enough – to simply partake in the creativity of someone else.  I’ve long believed that the cycle of artistic creation is not complete until the thing created is observed by someone other than its creator.   If that is indeed true, then we’re all part of the process, whether we are the ones who birth or the ones who receive. 

My father’s love of the visual, performance, and written arts shaped who I am as surely as if he had placed a brush in my hand himself, or composed the song I sang, or written the outline for a story.  Thank you, Daddy.  I love you and miss you and wish I could have known you longer and better.

The Honorable John C. Martin, 1936-2000

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the ways that we creative types – whether we’re visual artists, artisans, crafters, writers, musicians – express our creativity and about how much that creativity permeates our lives. 

I’m a visual artist who spent a lot of years as a singer and songwriter and who has always been a writer of one sort or another.  I have a constant need to create in some way; for me, that translates into decorating my home (sewing all of the new draperies and bedding for my bedroom instead of buying them ready-made, for instance); making jewelry, which I’ll never do professionally, but I love making it; gardening (I’m a firm believer that most gardening enthusiasts are flexing their creative muscles); and so it goes…

I refinish furniture, I crochet a little, instead of painting I draw or felt, I make gifts for people rather than purchase them.  I go to art parties and make shrines and postcards and birdhouses and mosaics.  And I’m always thinking about something I might do, would do, should do, used to do.  A new medium?  A new story?  Sure!  It never stops…and I don’t want it to.

How do others express their creativity outside their primary medium or field?  What do you do?  And what does it do for you?

In my last post, I mentioned that there is a story behind the two pieces pictured.  Here’s the lowdown:

Those two pieces are from my encaustic “Midsummer” series.  Both sold very quickly; one in late 2008 and one in 2009.  I knew the purchaser of one piece (a fellow artist) and had some email correspondence with the purchaser of the other. 

So when I had the opportunity to have some of my work photographed at the 1109 Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas, I contacted the owners to ask if I might borrow the two Midsummers for an afternoon so that they could be included in the photo session.  Because both of these people are wonderfully generous, they unhesitatingly agreed. 

I assured them that I would take exemplary care of their artwork and further, on the it-will-never-happen chance that a piece was damaged, it would be covered by my professional liability insurance.  But none of us were concerned about that, because nothing like that ever really happens.  Ever.

It was a wonderful photo shoot.  (When everyone present is telling you how much they LOVE your work, it’s a good day.)  Afterward, I carefully packed the 15 pieces and returned home.  This is probably a good time to mention that this photo shoot took place in February.  And that we had ridiculous amounts of snow and ice this year. 

What happened next is so mortifying that I am reluctant to describe it.  Let’s just say that in relatively short order I was a) on the ground, howling over encaustic artwork that was cracked, broken, and in some places shattered, and b) calling my husband in near-hysteria, telling him he had to come home IMMEDIATELY, because I had done something BAD.  (Okay, it was actually full hysteria.) 

And because you, dear readers, are an intelligent and intuitive lot, you already know which two pieces received the greatest damage.  The two pieces from the Midsummer series.  The two pieces that belong to other people.  People who paid for them.  Who love them.  Who trusted me to care for them.

After my husband broke land speed records getting home and had helped me calm down, I was able to step back from my emotions and assess the damage objectively.  People who know me know that I am a particularly determined woman.  My modus operandi is to bare my teeth at a challenge and take that sucker on.  And although I had never had to repair damaged encaustic before, I was pretty certain I could restore the pieces.  Not being able to restore them was too hideous a prospect to consider.

I notified the Midsummer parents that there had been an accident, but let them know I was on the job and had every certainty that I could restore their babies to their former fabulousness.  I told them that if I didn’t restore the pieces to their satisfaction, I would repay them the full purchase price.  And I would throw in another piece of my artwork – their choice and anything they wanted.  Bless their hearts, they were super-duper gracious and showed total faith in my curative powers. 

However, as I stood looking at the two pieces on the work table in my studio, I pinballed between confidence and doubt and panic.  I considered taking photos of the damage and the repair process, but I simply could not bring myself to document the mess, even though I knew I would wish later that I had. 

It took a couple of weeks to make the repairs.  It was very wearing as I worked through trial and error, put everything I know about my process and my medium to the test, and had to take things slowly and methodically when all I wanted was to get this disaster fixed and finished.  But ultimately, the restorations were successful, and Midsummers #1 and #2 were returned to their rightful owners.

And I vowed that never, never again under any circumstances whatsoever would I ask to borrow one of my sold paintings, no matter what show I’m offered, no matter what opportunity is presented.

Unless it’s just too good to pass up.  And then I’m going for it.  No guts, no glory, people!

With perhaps the most cliched blog title I’ve ever produced, I’m baaaaaccccck.  There I go again.  So a year and a half later, with more time on my hands, I’m relearning how to post and getting back to it.  For now, a couple of new pics hot off the photographer’s presses, with more writing to come later.  Because there are stories behind these two pieces, folks.  Stories.  The nightmarish sort that every artist fears…

Click on the pics for the best view.  Photo credits to Robbin Loomas of Sterling Image Photography in Lawrence, Kansas.

In the private collection of Karen Wiley; photo by Robbin Loomas

Midsummer #1; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic; 20x24; 2008.

In the private collection of Dan Winsky; photograph by Robbin Loomas

Midsummer #2; Malissa Martin-Wilke; Encaustic; 24x24; 2008.