The Art of Fred Martin
Homepage      Art      Exhibitions      Art Histories      Essays      Classes      Publications
 

Fred Martin
A Retrospective, 1948-2003
Catalog illustrations with commentaries...

 Catalog nos. 55-63

Click for
Catalog nos. 1-26.
Catalog nos. 30-54
Catalog nos. 65-77
Catalog nos. 78-115
Catalog nos. 119-137
 


 

Cat. no. 55.  Venus, the Germ of Metal Star.  1974.
Pastel on cardboard, 60 x 40 in.
In Why I Paint and What My Work Is About, [the catalog essay for this exhibition] I told about how this painting and the other planets came about.  Well, here is a little more.  After I left administration at SFAI in order to be an artist, I got a job for a year at Berkeley in order to make a living (Jean was working too, or we could not have made it).  In the UC library I found a book about Chinese alchemy that said the planet Venus was thought to be the source of all metals—hence the title Venus, the Germ of Metal Star.  A friend had made my birth chart and Venus and Mars were in conjunction there.  No wonder, I thought, that I am a Gemini.  Furthermore, about the broken necklace—well, life is also like wandering across the mountains.  The mountains are always there, but you meet them one by one.  The planets were mountains always there for me in eternity, but I found them to paint only in the paths of time.

 

 

 

Cat. no. 57  Plate 3, Liber Studiorum.  1973.
Offset lithograph on paper, 23 ½ x 35 in. 
Collection Oakland Museum of California.
I had a retrospective at the SFMOMA in 1973.  There was to be a catalog, but I wanted more than the usual book that is only a book, not a work of art in itself.  It was in the air to use the mass media mediums—like offset printing, for example—to break down the traditional shibboleths about “fine” art.  I decided to make a Liber Studiorum (Turner had made one of his work, suggested by Claude Lorraine’s of his) that would sum up my work to that time.  The result was a set of twenty 24 x 36 inch offset lithographic prints. I sold a few hand-colored sets for $400 in order to pay for the edition, and planned to sell all the rest at the museum as single black-and-white sheets for a dollar or two each.  The exhibition curator said that would destroy the market structure of “fine art multiples” and insisted we charge $400 for the black and whites as a set.  We sold none.

 

 

Cat. no. 58b.  The Three Trees.  April 19, 1975.
Watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 in.
It was the spring of 1975 and my last few months as Vice President for Academic Affairs at SFAI.  I went to an academic conference and had a dream about a tropical island and a tree beside the ocean.  At home, I was reading about the “preestablished harmonies” of the ancient Greeks and also about the maypole of medieval Europe as a springtime fertility symbol.  And I was remembering a late antique springtime hymn to Aphrodite risen from the sea.  I used all my geometrical schemes to make the tropical island on the left, the maypole on the right, and the cosmic tree in the center.  And the hymn?  It’s across the bottom… “He who loved never, let him endeavor; he who loved ever, let him persever.”

 

 

 

 

Cat. no. 60.  Black Redmon.  1977.
Watercolor on paper, 60 x 40 in.
Collection Oakland Museum.
There was a time in 1976-7 when the well of my work was dry.  A student saw the word “timeless” in my A Travel Book and said “If you ever want the timeless, contact the Monroe Institute.”  I would do anything to get the flow going again, contacted the Monroe Institute, and began several years of work with altered states of consciousness.  All the ways of art making that I had mastered, collapsed.  It took perhaps half a year until I learned how to meet and show beings like this “Black Redmon” who was all the dark sexual violence deep in my ancestral medieval soul.  I also met and painted “Ikarion,” the spiritual flyer across all the heavens of eternity.  Once I saw the masters in their gathering place high among the mountains of infinity.  Another time I saw all the souls of all the people who have been or will be.  They were the seeds in eternity.

 

 

Cat. no. 61.  Tree, August 28, 1978.
Watercolor on paper, 40 x 30 in. 
Collection Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Martin, Atlanta GA.
At the time of Black Redmon and the other paintings of the places and beings of my altered states of consciousness (“astral travel”), I read a review of Nathan Olivera’s large watercolors.  The review revived my old fantasy about “glory” and “majestic size.”  If Nate was glorious because his watercolors were big, I would be glorious if my watercolors were big—and the beings I was meeting in my astral travels lived in eternity and were as big as infinity.  After a while, though, I thought that all those big watercolors like Black Redmon were as logistical a nightmare as my big acrylics had been ten years before, and I switched to half size.  This half-size painting shows a rainbow tree, its roots dug like claws in the earth in the land of the horizon of eternity.  A sperm cell is on its way to the copulation that is our timeless act of procreation in this world.

 

 

 

 

Cat. no. 62.  Self Portrait as Herm.  1981.
Drypoint on paper, 60 x 40 in. 
Collection Oakland Museum of California.
In late 1981, Paula Kirkeby invited me to make monotypes at 3EP Press.  One of the conditions was each artist had to make a self-portrait for gift to the man who donated the very large etching press on which the monotypes would be printed.  I made a series of Scenes from the Birth of Venus (a takeoff from Botticelli), and then I began a portrait of my self as a herm.  A herm is a column of stone with a head and an erection in the right place.  The Greeks used them to mark the boundaries of and to fertilize their fields.  I broke the head off my herm, broke off one wing but left another still visible, wrapped my erection in a ribbon of love, put the sun shining in my solar plexus, and set all of it reaching for my heart.  3EP found the Scenes from the Birth of Venus to be okay, but my herm was deemed unfit not only for publication but also for a gift to the donor of the press.

 

 

 

Cat. no. 63.  A Snake of Stars in the Setting Sun.  August 10, 1981.
Watercolor on paper, 60 x 40 in.
Collection Oakland Museum of California.
I stopped making large watercolors like Black Redmon because I thought there was no point in making such large things.  However, I went back to them because the physical thrill of making them was so powerful… all the streaming color pouring every way as I held and turned the painting in my arms and afterward laid it flat with the painting between but greatly larger than my open thighs.  In this way I would meditate the painting up into me and me down into it as my mirror, myself. One late afternoon I looked into the west where the sun was blazing.  I put my hand before the sun and saw the light burning through the red of my flesh.  I went into the studio, held and turned a 4 by 6 foot drawing board stretched with paper and wet with paint, and made the western sun.  Afterward, I sat beside the painting and took it into me.  I saw to paint the snake of stars, my manhood in eternity.

 

   

Click for
Catalog nos. 1-26.
Catalog nos. 30-54
Catalog nos. 55-63
Catalog nos. 65-77
Catalog nos. 78-115
Catalog nos. 119-137