Praying With My Eyes Open

Mär Martinez

About Mär Martinez

Mär Martinez is an interdisciplinary artist specializing in sculptural painting. Her work dissects dominance, aggression and power dynamics through the lens of a culturally-enforced binary system. She received a BFA in Painting and a BA in Art History at the University of Central Florida. Awards include: Bridge Ahead Grant, Jewish Art Salon Student Fellow, FusionFest Best in Show Award, and the Miniature Fine Arts Society Award. 2021 Exhibitions include: A Tiny Bit of Fire, London, GENESIS, NY, Raw Fibers, FL, GALEX 55 National Juried Competition, IL, ARTFIELDS 2021, SC, Collaborative Animals, OH and Sugar, Spice, and Not Playing Nice, NY. 2020 Solo Exhibitions include: FRACTURE, FL, and Illusions of Safety, PA. 2020 Exhibitions include: 2020 Florida Biennial, FL, B20: Wiregrass Biennial, AL, Feminine/Masculine, and Hungary. In 2020, Martinez was Artist-in-Residence at Temporary Stay, FL. She was Artist-in-Residence at The Spruce, PA. Martinez is a member of the Dorothy Gillespie Foundation Advisory Board in NY. In 2021, she was Artist-in-Residence at the Stay Home Residency, TN, and was Curator-in-Residence at the Dorothy Gillespie Foundation, NY. She was Resident at the M.O.M. Museum, FL. Martinez is Maitland Art Museum’s 2022 resident, will be resident artist at Piedmont University, GA, in 2022.

About Praying With My Eyes Open

I’m influenced by textiles/rugs that were brought over from Syria. I want reclaim dominion of identity through intrinsic explorations of memory, of cultural resilience, and of sanctuary from a post-immigration experience. My family, like many others, had to hide their deeply religious/cultural identity when fleeing the Middle East for fear of discrimination. Family members were beheaded for refusing to renounce their religion, and my family fled their Syria. They concealed their heritage and attempted to blend into the Anglicized hegemony to escape persecution. So much of culture is anchored to ritual and tradition that is passed on, deeply rooted in religion. To pray with one’s eyes open indicates an inherently hollow performance of ritual rather than an act of faith, yet an inability to let go completely of tradition. It implies desire that lurks beneath the subconscious to be able to trust in the protective rituals of our ancestors. The conflicting states of belief/nonbelief mirror the flux of trans-cultural identity. There is also guilt in abandoning old ways, and the rituals are warped between desires to embrace modernity while maintaining tradition. I think the desire to cover oneself is an unconscious act that contradicts itself; it stems from an animalistic desire to seek comfort — and to hide. The rugs struggle between the cultural binaries; to stand in between two seemingly opposing heritages is to choose to refuse mutual exclusivity. I created paintings of textiles draped over forms cut out on wood to emphasize the absent objects underneath them. The forms become concealed and protected by the rugs, but also smothered while struggling between the strain of historic colonial influence and preserving tradition with assimilating for self-preservation. The fabric form is a reflection on need for safety, community, peace and protection.Shmita is a time to rest, meditate, and celebrate our relationship with the natural world. In these pieces I am thinking about what it means to occupy space in the world, the importance of safety, and how to honor ritual and history through an embodied state. I am thinking about the need for preservation, our connection to history (through language and through ritual) our connection to a shared history through our bodies, and by giving ourselves a place to rest. In this painting I tried to examine my shifting relationship with faith, preservation and ritual while creating a protective space for myself to rest (within the safety of the draping fabric).To me, the time of Shmita is a way to live mindfully through deliberate and embodied actions. Typically I create work that relates to violence through raw exertions of unbalanced power, but I shifted the way I thought about artmaking throughout the making of these pieces. I am used to a very fast-paced life, so I tried to find meaning in quiet, controlled and minimal actions that became a way for me to “ground” my physical self while exploring other ideas. These works, in the context of my practice, look inward in a quiet and reflective way, and this to me embodies the way I have tried to honor the Shmita. I really wanted to focus on quiet actions and rituals – like covering/uncovering oneself with a fabric to create a space of safety and rest through the textile, and the act of symbolically “processing” language through an intentional and ritualistic act – to explore ideas of how we can honor our physical forms and seek understanding during the Shmita.