Cult Obsessed: America Martin
(Who we’re obsessed with and why you should be too.)
When we pulled up to America Martin’s studio in Silver Lake, we almost had to confirm with Google Maps that we were indeed in the right location. We say “almost” because just as we broke out the smartphone, America greeted us with her infectious smile. Once inside we couldn’t hide our awe. “This is all yours?” we asked. “Yup,” she beamed, “it’s all mine!”
What we’re referring to is the former drapery and manufacturing business that America and her husband transformed into an artist’s idea of heaven: Endless amounts of workspace for large-scale canvases, a sun-drenched gallery, fully-stocked kitchen, and cozy living room (with countless tomes for thumbing through, of course!). Around every corner was a pocket of surprise, whether that be a wind chime made of seashells or a stack of postcard-sized sketches.
Take a look at her Silver Lake studio, and don’t forget to check out her upcoming solo shows in Austin, TX. and Rockland, ME. if you’re in the area!
CULT: Tell us about the first piece you ever sold.
America: When I was 16 I knew that I wanted nothing else but to be a fine artist. My best friend’s mother asked me to send her some images so she could pass them along to her friends. She was my first real supporter. I took a few drawings to a one-hour film developing place, and convinced the man to take pictures of my work where he usually took the passport photos. I made a pack and my friend’s mom sent them out. A few weeks later I got a call saying that I sold a drawing to Danny DeVito. I was amazed, surprised, and generally blown away. The idea that I could make something that would resonate with someone else was incredidble to me. I felt that I might just have a chance at my dream coming true of becoming a fine artist.
CULT: How do you feel when people compare you work to that of Mid-Century Modernist painters like Picasso, Matisse, and Cezanne?
America: To be compared to those classic giants is extremely flattering. By nature I am drawn to enduring classics. I’d rather read Portuguese poetry than watch reality TV. The wonderful thing about all the arts – music, literature, and fine art – is that we understand by observation and comparison. And, we compare things to other things we’ve experienced. This is what makes art so cool and the most universal language.
CULT: What is your process like — from conception to completion?
America: I usually put up a canvas or take out a piece of paper and just look. I let the image present itself. I think of this as when the artist and muse come together. People often ask, “how do you know when a piece is done?” An artist knows a piece is done the second they are aware of it. It’s when they stop creating intuitively and start looking at their work objectively. That’s the time to stop because you’re already outside of the arena.
CULT: What do you love about living and working in Silver Lake?
America: I have found that a large percentage of artists live on the eastside of Los Angeles, and I enjoy the camaraderie of being close to other working artists. I am right on the border of Silver Lake and Historic Filipino Town, which is an area that demonstrates why Los Angeles is one of my favorite cities. Because of its rich pockets of fantastic cultural diversity, an artist is never short of inspiration.
CULT: Where do you go to be inspired in and around L.A.?
America: The Hollywood Farmers’ Market, Point Dume in Malibu, the top of Runyon Canyon, Hiromi Paper Store in Bergamont Station, Santa Monica, my studio in Silver Lake, my mom’s house in Hollywood, the Cheese Store of Silver Lake, or just cranking up the music and driving with the windows down in my vintage VW van.
CULT: What’s the one artist’s tool you can’t live without?
America: My boom box. When I work, I get lost in hundreds of audio books or music – from Puccini arias to Bukka White, Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown, John Prine, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Jake Bugg, Johnny Moezzi, Charlie Wadhams, and Bob Dylan.
CULT: What is your relationship to your subjects — are these people strangers or dear friends?
America: I am always finding models within the friends of people I know or people I meet out in the world. What I find intriguing is an untangible quality, but when I see someone who has “that something” about them, I get so happy that I’ll go up and begin a conversation.
CULT: How does your heritage influence your work?
America: Roots are like finger prints. They are always there informing and coloring every choice you make. My Colombian roots definitely have an impact on what I find beautiful aesthetically and what I’m drawn to. But im also influenced by other peoples cultures and heritage – that’s something I welcome.
CULT: What would you be doing if you weren’t painting?
America: Artists are storytellers, no matter the medium. So if I wasn’t telling stories through painting, I’d be telling stories through writing or theater or film. In fact, I’m working on a show about Los Angeles that will be a multi-media exhibition with the subjects’ stories incorporated as part of the show. I am most inspired by people and all the unique nuances that make us who we are. For an artist, there is always something new to observe and to learn.
CULT: What is your advice to aspiring artists?
America: Work. If you’re going to say you’re an artist, have a body of work to show. No one tells you when to paint or when to show up, so it’s up to you to have the discipline, passion, and love to be ready to learn and discover your own process. It takes work. But when you love something deeply, spending your time doing that is the best work of all.