New Year, New Home, New Studio

My new studio is the living room in my 100-year-old apartment building. With vaulted, wood-beamed ceilings I am in awe of the beautiful craftsmanship as I stare at the hand-stenciled details. I have my grandmother’s model stand as the centerpiece of the space and my work tables are ready to be utilized. Now that we have finally unpacked our new home, I can get to work and implement the ideas for my solo show that have been percolating for the last month.

lorrainestudio

We celebrated the New Year with a few friends and their children. When my guests arrived, they saw our beautiful, giant Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped packages. One friend laughed as he found out these were gifts I intended to give each of my guests as they left. He thought they were fake, placed for decoration. The presents were small paintings or drawings; some I’ve had for twenty years. I thought, what a better way to start the new year than to clean out my large caché of work and give away, with love, my art. Here are some portraits sent by my guests and their art:

                                                                   

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Jen

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Mike

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This month Coco Chanel: A New Portrait by Marion Pike, Paris 1967-71 will finally be exhibited stateside at the Katzen Art Center in Washington DC. Here is the first press on the exhibit and a great candid photo of my grandmother with Coco:

cuckoowithcoco11-2011

 

January is when we collectively reflect on the year that was. My year has already been chronicled in my last twelve posts but even though the pain still rings in my ears, I asked myself and my children to think about or reflect upon what was good about the year. For me, the one bright spot was being offered a solo exhibition at my gallery in Dallas. Happiness came in the form of a surprise baby for my 44 year-old high school friend who was amazed that she was able to bring a healthy child into the world despite her and her husband’s ages. Good news arrived as a devastating diagnosis for my nephew was downgraded to less critical; possibly avoiding the dreaded surgery once almost a certainty. Getting to work with and help heal other survivors of domestic abuse has been the most unexpected and fulfilling development in my art. Making sculpture again after more than 25 years has been like a dream. My daughter’s blossoming musical talents have been a thrill to nurture and watching them perform live is by far the most amazing and deliriously happy moment of 2016. To my friends and family who rallied support behind me when I really felt all hope was lost, I thank you.

This month’s music: TokiMONSTA

 

Moving On

As my children and I come to terms with moving on from the house they grew up in, I’m thankful for so many things. I’m thankful for the chance I had to transform a house into a home. This slideshow shows some of images of how the house was restored by my love for art and design. The final project for the house was the landscaping. It will be bittersweet to leave my home of the last 15 plus years but the good news is that I turned this house:

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 Into this:



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And I can do it again.

Three of the last fifteen years were spent in Valencia, Spain where I designed the kitchen and baths while maintaining the original charm of the flat. I’ll live and work in a temporary home while I dream of designing my next stop. I feel invigorated by the idea that I get to rescue another house and turn it into something new.

I finished my first painting for my solo show next year. Now that I know how the series will unfold, the panic of producing an entire exhibition is tempered by a sense of relief. The relief in knowing and seeing the entire show in my minds eye. Here is Cluster Compendium, 2016, 56″ x 72″, acrylic on linen:

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And a detail shot:

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This month’s music: A Tribe Called Quest

 

Compendium

As I continue to work with women who have suffered domestic abuse, I am humbled by the trust they have put in me to tell their stories. This month I worked with my friend and professional photographer Ted Thornton on the fabric design for the chairs titled Cluster “Melanie”. We spent an entire day shooting more than three hundred photographs in my studio:

tedthorntonphotoshoot

After carefully reviewing the photographs, we managed to pick the two most compelling images. The first image is an interpretation of what Melanie wanted and how she wanted to tell her story. The image is of the pain and suffering she endured both during the abuse but strikingly in the aftermath:

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The second image is an equally compelling photograph that is beautiful in it’s representation of resignation and defeat:

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As I began to create the paintings for my solo exhibition in July, 2017 at Galleri Urbane, I wasn’t happy with the direction they were taking. While successful compositions on their own, they seemed a worlds away from the imagery and ideas of the chair installation. This was how I discovered the right trajectory of the work. I came to the conclusion that the paintings had to work in concert with the sculpture and that a cohesive collection that told a story was paramount.  So I have begun a painting that is a message of my own pain and rendered it in a composition most resembling the repetition and patterns of the fabrics I’m designing for the chair installation. This painting is a deeply personal and frank rendering of all the times I had to submit to having to do things against my wishes, with or for my ex husband. Each shape I paint I take back my identity and reclaim the helplessness and unhappiness I endured for many years. It was easier to keep the peace and give in to his demands than to fight against him. I was, after all, his wife and he made it a point to remind me of that when he wasn’t getting his way. It is not easy for me to admit any of this. I feel embarrassed and degraded. But the power of the stories from the women I’m collaborating with have guided my new work with a forceful brilliance. This new painting in progress has been greeted with accolades and declared beautiful. It is a compendium or record of days and weeks and months and years of unhappiness. It is the truth among lies and the pain extracted from life.

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Cluster Compendium in progress, acrylic on linen, 56″ x 72″

This month’s music: James Blake

Permanent

In preparation for my solo show next year at Galleri Urbane in Dallas, I have reworked and expanded my plush sculpture idea. I added two more pieces to the sculpture and took it out from under the painting it originally was made to be displayed with. Now double in size, the sculpture lives in the middle of a space. It can be viewed in 3-D and I’m even considering the possibility of it being interactive at least during the opening of the exhibition. Here are a couple of views of the sculpture:

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Cluster Flee, 2016, fabric and stuffing, four 15′ long plush elements, view 1

As I wrote in a previous post, this sculpture is rendered in large pillow-like shapes to reflect the moment I had to flee my home and leave behind any sense of normalcy I or my children had of domestic happiness. This included being in our own home, in our own beds; a basic comfort children depend on for security. The plush sculpture also represents the emotional need to go to sleep for a long duration of time. I designed the fabric by photographing the IKEA step stool my younger daughter insisted on taking with us as we fled our home. The image of that child approaching me with her stool and claiming that she did not know if she would be able to reach the sink where we were going will forever sum up that night. Traumatized as she was, she showed a face of bravery perhaps I was too anxious to convey. This month marks the first anniversary of the 911 call and yet she still follows me from room to room as my shadow imploring me not to leave her side. She requests that either myself or her sister accompany her to any room in the house she does not want to be alone in. I announce when I’m going outside or heading to my studio so she doesn’t have to search for me in a panic. This I learned the hard way. It seems the last year of my life that everything has been the hard way.

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Cluster Flee, 2016, fabric and stuffing, four 15′ long plush elements, view 2

A client in New York sent me this picture of my work installed in her dining room. I had previously consulted on the chandelier and most recently on the color she chose to paint the credenza; it is a deep black/green lacquer. Once all the furniture items were finally installed, she had my paintings hung and it brought all the elements together for a beautiful grouping of art and architecture:

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Codigo 1-5, 2014, 15″ x 20″, acrylic on panel, Kim/Suzuki Residence, New York, 2016

I’m excited that a piece I created for the show entitled Pinceladas Colectivas while an artist in residence in Valencia, Spain is now travelling. After the inaugural exhibition in Valencia at Imprevisual Galería, the show is currently being displayed in the City of Buñol at La Sala de Exposiciones del Antiguo Molino de Buñol.

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I just realized that my piece for this collective project was perhaps the only interactive “man” since in order to see the entire piece, the viewer needs to flip through the layers of canvas in order to view all the paintings. The background was added later for display purposes by the artist who created, organized, and began this project.

PinceladasColetivasSideView2

This month I have titled the post “Permanent”. As I reflect on the one year anniversary of fleeing our home, I can’t help but reflect on the stress and anxiety, trauma and crying, pain and weight loss. The sleepless nights and financial strife will wane eventually but what is a constant is that I will never stop protecting my children or myself. This pain is not permanent and if we can make it through the year that was, we can make it through anything. What will be permanent is the resilience and fortitude that now makes up part of who I am.

This month’s music: Shy Girls

RIP

When I started these new paintings, I tentatively named them Cluster Heartbreak. I was processing my own broken heart, trying to work through the pain of a personal romantic relationship ending. As I came out the other side, I decided to keep the title because heartbreak is not just about me. My heart is broken by what my children have had to endure. My heart is broken by seeing the pain all around me. It is not a singular process. It is an all enveloping emotion applicable to everything surrounding all our lives. It exists in scenes from the street corner as I aspire to develop the empathetic side to my children’s brains. Heartbreak is understanding the pain beyond my front door. The lesson is that we all have pain to work through and if I can help others by sharing mine, then I’ve become a better person for it. I’m thankful for having my heart broken. I’ll take these lessons and grow into a better person and a stronger advocate for my children and others going through worse. I present this work as an affirmation of lifting myself up and not as a reminder of how far down I’ve fallen.

ClusterHearbreak1,2016,12x12in

Cluster Heartbreak 1, 2016, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

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ClusterHearbreak2,2016,12x12in

Cluster Heartbreak 2, 2016, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

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ClusterHearbreak3,2016,12x12in

Cluster Heartbreak 3, 2016, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

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ClusterHearbreak4,2016,12x12in

Cluster Heartbreak 4, 2016, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

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ClusterHearbreak5,2016,12x12in

Cluster Heartbreak 5, 2016, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

 

I was shocked and saddened to learn that my ex-husband recently flew to Spain and disposed of some really good paintings I made while living there. They were hanging in my Valencia apartment that I rent out short-term to travelers. So here is a brief homage to a few of the pieces now somewhere in a dumpster or landfill:

Distortion2,2012,39.5x27.5in

RIP: Distortion 2, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 39 1/2″ x 27 1/2″

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Nasoki 6,2011,acrylic on canvas,27.5x39.25in,70x100cm

RIP: Nasoki 6, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 40″

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Nasoki 5,2011,acrylic on canvas 39.25 x 39.25in, 100x100cm

RIP: Nasoki 5, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 40″ x 40″

Ending on a high note: Galleri Urbane in Dallas has scheduled me for a solo exhibition in July, 2017. I’m really excited to explore the possibilities of filling the space with my sculpture, installations, and paintings.

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This month’s music: Gallant

Broken in Two

When I decided to leave an unhappy marriage over a year ago, I never thought I would feel so free. I was overwhelmed by the sense that I would never again have to do or not do what my ex told me. I finally talked to friends I had been forcibly separated from, repaired things in the house, bought myself something new to wear, and laughed out loud with the enemy. At first, my ex took responsibility for everything. He smiled and said he was sorry after every story I re-told to him; ways he hurt or controlled me. I ended each recounting with the same phrase, “Does that sound like something nice to do to your wife?” He would shake his head no. I had stories for days and it seemed like he wanted to listen. I knew it was over for me but later I realized he only was trying to appease me. In fact, he had no intention of moving out or leaving the house to give me space. When I asked him to move out he replied that he would move out only when a judge ordered him to. The summer of 2015 was filled with rage and torment, threats and screaming. What initially began as an assertion of my rights to a happy life culminated in calling 911. My girls and I have never been so scared and I knew I had a long road ahead. Now, more than a year later, I have moved on in so many ways but he still has his grip around me. I feel like his venom is in my blood stream and I cannot remove the stinger of a dying insect still writhing, still fighting. Never wanting this fight, I tried to offer him a home and money to settle the divorce. But his behavior has been like a rabid animal who knows he will be tased upon approach but cannot stop himself to spare the pain.

After my last post, I had many women reach out to me with sympathy or stories of their own domestic violence or abuse. I’ve always known this issue was much larger than me. I’ve always known that others have suffered much worse abuse than I have and it made me think of how to address this in my art. I am working on collaborations with two of these women to share their stories and make beautiful the ugly ways of bullies.

On a positive note, I have several works on paper headed up to the Seattle Art Fair this month:

CliffDistortion,2016,16-22,15x18in

Cliff Distortion, 16-22, 2016, 15″ x 18″ea

This month my girls and I spent a week in the country at my father’s house visiting with siblings, their wives and children. Every morning I would sit out on the deck listening to the cicadas buzzing and watch the birds feeding. These moments alone were at once peaceful and tear-filled. I admired my sister-in-law tending to her three month old son and remembered my own girls being that age. The sleepless nights and constant care an infant requires was daunting but I remember rising to the occasion. We do what we have to do to and we don’t think it is above and beyond. We love unconditionally and that’s why we wake up to feed that infant during the night and change diapers with equal frequency. My health and weight have suffered under the strain of divorce and personal strife. The blisters (I recently found out are called a pressure ulcers) and bruises from being underweight hurt during the day and during the night. My sleep is interrupted by financial woes, maternal angst, and now a broken heart. But I try to put my life in perspective as I listen to the stories of the women who have suffered with even greater intensity and my friends suffering present pain. I sobbed with one friend on the phone at the news that his friend had killed himself. My heart broke when another friend told me through tears that she spent the entire day in the hospital as life support was removed to her friend’s week-old baby. We rise to the occasion because we have to. I will eat more and cry less because I am not the only one suffering. I will rise to the occasion.

This month’s music: Snakehips

The Year That Killed

The past 12 months were experienced with equal amount of tears and laughter. My latest painting deals with the turbulent time surrounding my divorce and on-going efforts to protect my children. Cluster Fail is about me trying to hold everything together in my life over the past year; the year that nearly killed me. Starting with a summer of torment, a domestic violence trial, and culminating with the judge revoking my ex’s visitation rights. His treatment of my daughters was so horrific that one of them threatened to stab herself in the leg to get away from him. She imagined that if she were sent to the emergency room, she wouldn’t have to see him. Listening to her testimony in court was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever endured. This painting is about my failure to keep a healthy weight, my failure to protect my children from trauma, and the failure of the system to protect all three of us.

ClusterFail,2016,72x48in

Cluster Fail, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 48″

I explore this initial failure of the justice system in my piece Cluster (Collapse). As I recalled in a previous post, this piece is about the night I called the police after a domestic violence incident in my home. After we were separated and during the time he refused to move out, my ex grabbed my wrist during a violent outburst terrifying myself and my children. When the police arrived, they failed to include the physical violence in their report. A few days later, my request for a restraining order was denied partly due to this omission. I first collapsed in the bathroom of the court house unable to compose myself or even walk to my car. After drying up my tears, I managed to make it to the car park where I collapsed again on the grass outside the entrance. The clump or mass of pill-like, capsule shapes in this painting represent how in spite of my best efforts to keep it together and hold my life intact, the explosion of events was out of my control.

Cluster(Collapse)2016,37x48in

Cluster (Collapse), 2016, acrylic on panel, 37″ x 48″, with chair installation

I had two chairs upholstered in a fabric I designed of my ex grabbing my wrist. These chairs represent the support that did not exist for me that day; a symbolic representation of catching that falling woman. Installed facing each other, the chairs act as a vehicle for viewers to sit across from another person forcing a dialogue about domestic violence.

Cluster(Collapse)ChairDetail

Cluster (Collapse), detail of chair fabric

Cluster (Silent Sobbing) reflects the moment I learned that my ex was planning to take me to court for full custody of my girls after he was ordered removed from the house. Even though I had obtained a restraining order, was awarded temporary full custody and I knew it was impossible that my children would be taken away from me, the intense shock of the moment was acute. This painting is about that moment and the agonizing but silent sobbing of catching my breath. The plush sculpture below is fabric I designed based on the IKEA step stool that my younger daughter insisted on taking with us as we were fleeing our home the night of the 911 call. The panic of the moment forced me to rely on my young girls to pack their own bags with essentials as I waited for the police to arrive. In my haste, I did not check the luggage until we arrived at my friend’s house. As we unpacked, I realized that in addition to the IKEA stool, my younger daughter’s suitcase was mostly filled with her beloved stuffed animals.

Cluster(Silentsobbing)2016,40x120in(PanelSize)

Cluster (Silent Sobbing), 2016, acrylic on panel, 40″ x 120″ (panel size), with plush sculpture installation

The sculpture is rendered in large pillow-like shapes to reflect the moment I had to flee my home and leave behind any sense of normalcy I or my children had of domestic happiness. This included being in our own home in our own beds; a basic comfort children depend on for security. The plush sculpture also represents the emotional need to go to sleep for a long duration of time.

DetailOfStoolPlushSculpture

Cluster (Silent Sobbing), detail of IKEA step stool fabric

First I spray painted white a dozen or so IKEA step stools then stacked them in a pyramid. After photographing the stools, I digitally created a mirror image and printed the design on upholstery fabric. I sewed the 10 yards of fabric into two 15 foot elongated, pillow-like shapes. Like the chair installation, I hope to encourage viewers to touch, lie down, or even change the shape of the sculpture.

This work for me has become more than just the painting and sculpture of the past. This work has become something deeper; something bigger than just making art. I was reading an article in the New Yorker and an excerpt resonated not only a rare truth in the game of buying and selling work but also the importance of valuing art devoid of gimmicks:

“In the past decade, the prices for postwar works have sometimes exceeded those for early-twentieth-century masterpieces. “We would always say, ‘Warhol is the Picasso of our time,’ and then at some point you realized that Warhol was more expensive than Picasso,” Gouzer told me. “In French, we have this expression—‘You have to put the church back in the middle of the town.’ In our world, everything articulates somehow around Picasso, so I started thinking we should bring Picasso back into the middle of the town.”

While I know this curator’s job is to sell work for the highest price, the quote hit a nerve. I hope to get my work back into the middle of the town. Otherwise I might have to move.

This month’s music: Sam Wills