Mónica Aíssa Martinez

b. 1962, El Paso, Texas

Artist Statement: “My artwork arises from a process in which I try to express my understanding about life energy, the growth process, transformation, transcendence, and the innate ability in humans to create. I believe my art is a reflection of myself as a female, as a human being, and ultimately as the creative spirit that I am. Much of my imagery is based upon the vessel in its role as a container, which I believe is a metaphor for the human body, and the mind. My work stresses movement and action taking place within the vessel and then flowing out and evolving. Similar to the life force flowing into and out of the body—thoughts flowing into and out of the mind and eventually forming and creating.”

Biography: Mónica Aíssa Martínez’s calling as an artist was enhanced by her background; she was a member of a creative family and, she has recalled, “was surrounded all my life by artisans, actresses, writers, musicians, and teachers.” Her parents encouraged her creative pursuits and taught her about her cultural background. Even so, Martínez felt a sense of isolation and separateness as a child. Others explained this to her as being a result of her minority status, and, as a Hispanic living in El Paso, she initially regarded it as a condition of her displaced Hispanic heritage. Because her minority status was compounded by being a woman, she also understood it as a women’s issue. Ultimately she came to believe that her feeling of separateness was actually a more universal condition: “I am not sure it is specifically a minority issue; I think it is a human issue.” This led her to the belief that the human race is bonded in spirit, a theme expressed in much of her art. Martínez places great emphasis on the importance of education in her career: “I have been influenced by numerous teachers and by the process of teaching itself.” She earned her B.F.A. at the University of Texas, El Paso, in 1986 and her M.F.A. at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, in 1991.
Martínez is that rare artist who can evolve the tradition of diverse artists in a way that is fully realized and original, at times even revelatory. While Leonora Carrington immediately comes to mind when considering Martínez’s use of colors and spatial license, perhaps the most striking element of her work is its relationship to Klee. At times teasing the viewer with a liberated illustrative style, Martínez allows single strokes to fling themselves across complex compositional landscapes, as an isolated improvised note would invade a full symphony. The viewer can take nothing for granted in these works. There are almost unending layers of imagery and references, creating an undeniable tension within these frames. Martínez creates the anticipation that at any moment the surreal forms might dance off the canvas and climax in some unforeseen way.

Exhibitions: Exhibitions featuring Martínez’s works have included Two of a Kind (University of Texas, El Paso, 1986), Works on Paper Exhibition (Lincoln Arts Cultural Center, El Paso, 1987), From the Center (Corbett Center Gallery, Las Cruces, NM, 1989), Latina and Native American Women’s Exhibition (Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and Locust Gallery, San Antonio, TX, 1991), National Drawing Competition (purchase award, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 1992), Close to the Border (purchase award, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, 1992), Here and Now: Arizona Contemporary Artists (Arizona State University, Tempe, 1995), Form and Metaphor (Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, 1996), Women in the Visual Arts 1997 (Erector Square Gallery, New Haven, CT, 1997), MARS Annual Blu-Lite Invitational Exhibition (MARS Artspace, Phoenix, AZ, 1997), 99 Cups (Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ, 1999), and an untitled three-person juried exhibition (Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ, 2001), along with solo exhibitions such as Élan Vital (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, AZ, 1998) and Wu-Li Works (atelier 31, Kirkland, WA, 2001). She also created artwork and posters for the El Paso Pro Musica International Chamber Music Festival in 1996 and for Fiesta ’99, Hispanic League of the Piedmont Triad, Winston-Salem, NC, in 1999.