Briefly describe the work you do.
I am an interdisciplinary artist who sews textiles and items such as flowers, sequins, hand painted grocery store posters and lace. I photograph what excites me about the urban environment for example the glistening of ice and snow, factory structures, rope, clothing, abandoned spaces, kitschy dollar store arrangements and college the documentation into screen prints and installation.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in Pilsen, a predominately Mexican neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. This community is heavily influenced by my heritage where you will experience colorful murals, street vendors such as fruit carts, and elotero/as (people who sell spicy corn on a cob) and community events where there is dancing and live Mexican and house music created by talented artists. I am also drawn to architecture and street geometry such as train tracks, fences and scaffolds. My work relates to nostalgia. After graduating from college and returning to Pilsen, my thoughts rewind to certain memories around the neighborhood and I wonder how I can honor “home” by using my skills as an artist.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I treat every walk as research and pay attention to details such as sirens, flowers, wind, vibrant gasoline stains, CTA trains, lights, hand painted signs, decaying buildings, etc. I document these moments by videotaping, photographing, and ideating in my sketchbook. I also collect scraps of fabric, newspaper, parade streamers, shattered glass, pieces of wood and take everything to my studio to reflect and play.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I am currently a teaching artist, assistant and mentor. I absolutely love these roles because I get the opportunity to share my insights and techniques with youth. I have the honor of building friendships with young people and watching them grow as they are discovering their artistic identity. It’s one of the most fulfilling experiences as an artist and I hope to become a professor one day.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I love working on art at night. I tend to be more focused and my creative energy urges me to produce. However, I create whenever I can and my goal is to work in my studio or home at least four times a week.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I was living in Minneapolis five years ago where I first created a participatory fabric installation beneath a bridge. Then I traveled to Guatemala and led a mural project at an elementary school and tutored children. Following that experience, I moved to Baltimore to serve as an AmeriCorps member where I taught art and created installations in abandoned spaces near schools I worked at. My work is different now because I am living in Chicago so the materials and location are different. My practice is the same because I am still inspired by city life and dedicated to the advancement of art education.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I have an older brother who decided to become a gang member at the age of thirteen. I saw him get arrested a few times and get into trouble around the neighborhood. He would always listen to 2PAC and ghetto house music, break girls’ hearts, write gang graffiti in his secret sketchbooks and store oil markers inside of cigar boxes next to his gin. He is a wild soul and told me to stay in school. So I did.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would love to be an ecologist and be knowledgeable of every flower species. I imagine it would transform my art practice into creating large-scale floral projects that would beautify and benefit abandoned spaces in Chicago, Baltimore and abroad. I envision these projects to be in collaboration with youth, artists, and urban planners.
About Victoria Martinez
Victoria Martinez is an interdisciplinary artist from Chicago who received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her focus includes soft sculpture, installation, printmaking and collage. Martinez has exhibited at the National Museum of Mexican Art, The Center for Advanced
Hindsight at Duke University, Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts, Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota, and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Upcoming projects include presenting a flag for the Temporary Allegiance project at Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an exhibition at Columbia College.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.