July 2018 Artist Interview
Cecilia Martinez is a lifelong Jersey City, New Jersey, resident. She has always had a love for the arts, especially the written word. She is an established and published writer and poet, with her work being recognized all over the world, from New York to the Philippines. But it wasn’t until her father’s unexpected death as a result of a homicide in September 2015 that she became completely immersed in the visual arts as a therapeutic outlet and a form of self-expression to cope with his loss. While still relatively new to the art scene, her work has been exhibited in more than 30 venues since she began showcasing her art in October 2016. Cecilia has had her work featured at LITM, Issyra Gallery, 107 Bowers Gallery and Artspace, and the Flagship Gallery, to name a few. She was also named a finalist in Art Scene Today’s “Fragmented” International Juried Competition in 2016 for her work, “Broken Mirrors,” and had her artwork featured in a segment on Al Jazeera TV, which reaches 30 million viewers worldwide. Cecilia has a Bachelor of Arts in English/Journalism and a Digital Media Arts degree, and plans to pursue a Master of Art in the future.
At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to become an artist? Did the realization emerge slowly?
My journey to becoming a visual artist began quite unexpectedly. Ever since the age of 10, I had always dreamt of becoming a famous writer – an author of books, a scribe of poetry and prose. It was my passion, even in grammar school. I pursued this dream zealously. Every decision I made concerning my education or future career plans was focused solely on becoming a master of the written word, and I succeeded in my efforts. I graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts in English/Journalism, and soon after became a reporter/editor for a local newspaper. I was also a freelance writer for several music magazines, and wrote interviews on famous musicians like Les Claypool and Juliette Lewis. I had my poetry published in several literary journals, and even won awards for my work. It seemed that I was well on my way to becoming what I had always wanted to be in life.
Yet, sometimes life throws you an unexpected curve ball that you never see coming. A tragic event occurred in 2015 that spun my whole world upside down. That year, my father, Rafael Martinez, was assaulted on the streets of Jersey City. He suffered a severe head injury that left him unable to speak, walk, stand, and even breathe on his own. His injury was so severe that he was admitted into the hospital for three months. During that time, I had countless doctors tell me that he would never recover, and that I should remove the machines that provided him life so he could pass peacefully. But I just couldn’t do it. And being his sole caretaker (as I was his only child and family), I witnessed the horrors that he endured every single day from his injuries. It took a lot of courage and strength to put a smile on my face each day for him. And seeing someone I loved so much in such a state caused me great distress.
Three months after his assault, my father succumbed to his injuries. He passed away with me by his side, holding his hand, and it is a moment in time that I will never forget. It was then that his death was ruled a homicide, and my life would be changed forever.
A few months after his death, I was searching for an outlet to alleviate all the dark, confused, sad and hopeless feelings I felt due to this experience. I was also diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and severe anxiety during this time. So I turned to the visual arts as a therapeutic outlet, even though I had never dabbled in the field. Why art and not writing? My father was a visual artist himself, and I thought there would be no better way to be closer to him now that he was gone than to begin practicing myself something that he loved to do.
When I first started my artistic endeavors, I created what I called spiritual art. It was art that concerned religion and the soul, subjects that I thought would ease my mind and provide comfort during one of my most difficult times. But since then, my style has evolved dramatically as I have become more comfortable with my skills and experimenting with different artistic techniques. I currently work on pop art, collages, and more, yet still focus on the primary reason of why I started this journey in the first place – for the love of my father.
How did you evolve your style and favorite mediums?
I am a self-taught artist, so I am constantly evolving my visual language, methods and mediums, even to this day. I love taking a crack at working with a medium I have never worked with before and learning how to manipulate them to create something new and extraordinary. I have taught myself how to draw, work with acrylic and watercolor paints, create collages, handle spray paint and even compose art through digital media programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Currently, my favorite mediums are acrylic paint, spray paint, collaging, and, of course, the handy and trusted graphite pencil. Many of my works now are collage pieces I create using a variety of elements and techniques. I draw pieces for my collages, use paint, color pencil, marker – basically anything that comes into my imagination that I think would enhance the piece. So my signature style is a combination of urban art/collaging, and through this method I have created pieces that I am extremely proud of and are relatable to a larger audience than just myself.
What are your time management techniques? Do you have regular working hours...or favorite times to work?
Unfortunately, I have no time management techniques when it comes to creating art! Once I start a piece, it is so difficult for me to put it aside and work on it later because I am so very excited to see the end result of my vision. Also, when I feel like I am in a groove with a piece, I want to keep that momentum going. So I will stay working on a piece for hours. Someone would literally have to pull me away from the canvas if they want me to stop working on it!
I’ve read that many creatives are nocturnal creatures and favor working on projects at night, and to that I am no exception. My favorite time to work on any art project is at night, when my creative juices are flowing and my imagination runs wild with the possibilities that darkness brings into the atmosphere.
Do you work on more than one piece at a time, or primarily just on one?
I usually work on two or three projects at one time. I switch back and forth between projects, working a bit on one and then refocusing my attention to work a little on another. But I love this approach. It gives me time to set aside a piece of work and come back to it with fresh eyes, a new perspective, and different ideas on how I can make the piece better. This technique has often times changed the whole direction of the piece, of the idea I had originally envisioned it to be, and made it into something even more intricate and detailed. Some of my best work has come into fruition by utilizing this method.
What would you say is your biggest influence -- that which keeps you working, regardless of all else, your most steadfast motivation?
My biggest influence in continuing to create art is for my father. It is my way of keeping his memory and legacy alive. And I know that if he can see me now, he is extremely proud that I followed in his footsteps and that I have been able to touch others with my work and provide inspiration to those going through similar situations as myself. He would be happy at how far I have been able to go within the art world. He is my reason and inspiration in continuing my path as an artist.
Does trying something new and not knowing the rules -- the boundary pushing -- create anxiety or excitement in you? (Or both?)
Since I am a self-taught artist, everything I try is new. But creating something with new mediums and techniques doesn’t frighten me; it actually creates excitement within me. I love to see the end result of what I create. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But if you don’t try, you never know what you can create. And, sometimes, the outcome of what you make even though you aren’t aware of the “rules” is so wonderful and creative. It inspires me to keep pushing those boundaries to see what else I can do besides the norm.
Do you enjoy having the "duality of both chaos and control" or are you happiest with a set plan?
My artist statement reads: “Professional writer, poet and visual artist from Jersey City. Inspired by Shakespeare and the Sex Pistols.” So, of course, I love the duality of both chaos and control. Sometimes, I will begin creating an artwork with a set vision in mind, and as the work progresses, it begins to morph into something completely different than what I had in mind. So I usually just go with the flow of the piece – the colors, the representation, the images – and let the artwork itself guide me into what it wants to be. Set plans usually do not work for me as my mind is constantly coming up with new ideas and concepts even while I am in the middle of creating a piece. Sometimes, you just have to immerse yourself in the chaos!
Do you have any projects or events forthcoming?
I am currently working on an artistic series that deals primarily with the emotions and mental tribulations that I endured coping with my father’s death. I haven’t been ready to delve into that part of my psyche and creative mind yet, but I feel like I am in a place now where I can do so tastefully and elegantly. A few pieces for this series have already been completed, and all feature some sort of self portrait of myself within an artistic environment that portrays different thoughts and emotions. I hope to have the series completed by late 2018 so I can put in a gallery proposal for a solo show featuring these works.
Jersey City, NJ
Mixed media collage
As Night Falls