Max-Carlos Martínez

These paintings are derived from a vision that came to me as a child. I was raised an American, one capable of all advantages this country has to offer. My culture was something that I had to learn myself. It is through that process that my life’s work became apparent. The history of my family became embattled with the process of assimilation. I kept a journal of my elders’ spoken memories. I began collecting photographs and started a video project. With the encouragement of a large and supportive family I taught myself how to draw. I continued this effort for many years. In 1992 I started the paintings that combine everything that I started as a young boy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This body is an elaborate retelling of one hundred years of my family’s history in what has become our America. Drafted in a style based on religious iconography, each ancestor is elevated into vivid tableau. Still maintaining their spiritual dignity, they continue to invoke the lessons of Americanization for future generations to learn from.

Recently I have begun incorporating my personal history into this body of work. These paintings address the effects of assimilation on the unwitting youth. I was all at once an American who was supposed to fight for my Chicano heritage--this all within the backdrop of the revolution of the 1960’s. I was aware of the intimate history of my ancestors, but learning the truth of our historic losses became a battle that proves to enlighten even to this day.

While this creative project is still unfinished I can foresee its completion nearing. Ideally this work will be displayed all together. I will incorporate written text, as well as photo and video documentation. One hundred years of becoming American. A journey taken in order to find ourselves.

These paintings are all based on family photographs dating from the 1890’s through the present. A geometric construct is laid onto the canvas. The photos are projected directly onto the canvas, and then a line drawing is made. A fine paint brush line is then painted over the pencil line. Unnatural color foundations are applied next. Within these brush strokes are the pattern for the further application of a graduating colors. This effort is applied many times over, in order to give a chaotic energy to the stiff posturing and often uncomfortable circumstances surrounding the posed photos. The backgrounds are built up in a similar fashion. The means is to create an ethereal other worldliness. Either one photograph is used or a grouping indicating a period of the subject’s lifespan. Sometimes text is used, coinciding with the title or some personal reference based on the subject’s history. This process is grueling and laboriously time consuming. It is within this artistic creation that I pay homage to my family’s history. It is through this effort that I have found my personal language.

Fire Burns I
9 in 69

A self-portrait based on a fourth grade school photo. The inherent turmoil implodes in the distraught youth.






Housewife Battles Self

A painting honoring my grandmother Luz. Her schooling would be six years of religious education. Her brothers and sister would be sent off to private education. She stayed on the farm to help with the chores. Her siblings would become business pioneers. She would die in poverty





These works on paper are related to when I was a young teenager in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I turned thirteen in 1974, grew up with war, parents who lived threw war, like their folks. The sixties came crashing all around, the revolution withered in agony. We had to look forward to the Bicentennial and Disco. This series is based on remembrances of the nostalgia of my father and mother