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

 Catalog nos. 65-77

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


 

 

 

Cat. no. 65.  The Life of Grass I, The Scythe.  July 28, 1982.
Watercolor on paper, 40 x 40 in.
When I began to prepare for this retrospective exhibition, I thought about the phrase “source and goal.”  The source of this painting in the world of work is told on p### of the essay Why I Paint and What My Work is About.  And the goal—to give an easy aesthetic frisson—is also told there.  But the source of this painting in the timeless mountains, the bead from the necklace broken in eternity?  Jean was the California poppy and I was the sheaves of the grain of Beulah Land.  I did not know but the painting foretold the mountain—death—that lay ahead.  Yes, the necklace was broken and I had found this stone.  I did not know what it was.

 

 

Cat. no. 67.  Untitled.  July 24-September 9, 1983.
Watercolor with collage, 40 x 30 in.
I had learned in the 1970s from the astrologer Dane Rudhyar that fate is what you are given but destiny is what you make of it.  Soon after my July 1982 painting of the scythe in the grass, I learned the mountain ahead was death and the bead I had found from eternity’s necklace was the same.  I vowed to use my art as a tool to fight a fate and make a destiny.  In this image, Jean as the World card of the Tarot floats in a golden heaven while I fight death with my sword in the bloody womb of the world.  I made death fall down in art, but in life death won.  Perhaps I already knew.  After all, in the art, I had put Jean in heaven.  Never trust what art might tell you.  It might be what you don’t want to know.

 

 

 

 

Cat. no. 69.  “We were shadows…”  October 12, 1985. 
Watercolor with collage on paper, 48 x 35 ½ in.
I made paintings to tell our story; I wanted it never to be lost.  I remembered a pastel I had made in 1951 when first I began to use soft pastels.  It was based on an image from Rachmaninoff—the adagio of his Second Symphony—the liner notes had said the whole symphony was in the mode of a psalm that said human life is like grass.  My pastel was all just the golden grass of California with Jean’s and my shadows holding hands across it.  And then the grass had returned to my work in that fatal “cheap frisson” of July 1982 (cat. no. 65 ).  And so I made the grass here again to tell what I now knew to be our story… “We were shadows in the grass and like shadows were soon gone.”

 

 

 

Cat. no. 73.  “It was in those years of childhood.”  December 30, 1985. 
Watercolor with collage, 39 x 24 ½ in.
When I was a child in Alameda, our living room had pictures of Venice in the sunset and an Italian garden with a fountain.  My room had a Spanish galleon with a great red cross on the sail, a Viking ship with a dragon prow, and a clipper ship all blue water and golden clouds.  I was a “ships” kid, I suppose because my parents had given me Gordon Grant’s Book of Old Ships to look at and draw from when I was in bed for three months with rheumatic fever.  The kid across the street was a “trains” kid (his dad worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad).  The kid across the street was older than me, and we argued as to whether ships or trains were best.  He yelled louder and I cried.  I had those pictures of Italy and of the ships all the time until I became a student at Berkeley and was told such things were “not art.”  I made this painting to remember them forever.

 

Cat. no. 77.  Ashes with Poppy. December 30-January 1, 1992. 
Watercolor with collage, 18 x 24 in.
In the late 1980s, the computer became a practical tool for individual use, and I decided to use it to make an art I could both keep and give away.  I wanted to keep my work because I thought each piece was a stone in the arch of my life—lose a stone and the arch falls.  But I also wanted to share the work by giving it away.  By making a computer-reproducible art, I could both keep and give.  I made many pieces this way, combining computer printouts of text and simple pictures (my printer was dot matrix and my scanner four inches wide and hand-held) with painting.  Each copy was the same image and text, and each was painted differently.  I mined my old paintings and memories for content, slowly using all the scraps of thirty years until nothing was left.  This folder of Beulah’s last poppy in the ashes of death was the end.

 

 

   

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