Victoria Martinez is an artist and educator based in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Previously featured on Make Space (here), Victoria talks about her process, relationship to materials and space.
On process and collecting:
I collect materials by purchasing at local textile warehouses, dollar stores, thrift stores and marketplaces. I also utilize items that are found in the environment or that are given to me by chance. For example, when I was living in Baltimore, a textile factory was going out of business and everything was being given away. I searched through old boxes in various rooms and transformed the fabric into collages. It was pure luck that I came across this opportunity.
I consider the process of chance conceptually important because it is entertaining to create and manipulate materials that are available, especially when others may see it as disposable. I strive to find a combination in items and view them as puzzle pieces. Currently, I am simultaneously working on various projects and it’s been that way since undergrad. It’s exhausting, but I absolutely love it.
On medium and materials:
I find the relationship I have with materials strangely interesting. Either they are gifts, purchased at thrift stores or local establishments during my walks. Most of these items strike memories and mysteries and I spend a long period of time with them. I wash them by hand, iron them, and analyze the patterns, colors and textures. I cut the materials and begin to play in the studio followed by extensive hours of stitching, thinking and at times speaking out loud of what they remind me of. Once the project is complete and I install it outside, I move on. There are a handful of projects that I’ve kept, but most of them are left in the urban environment. I continue to work this way because I enjoy honoring specific sites and it is fulfilling to study and appreciate places that seem to be fading away.
I love looking at Pipilotti Rist. Her work hypnotizes me, specifically her collaged videos. They’re seductive, mysterious and her use of color is stunning. Whether she’s breaking car windows as she casually struts down the street, flashes neon, ocean vaginas on large screens or blurts childish love thoughts, she will grasp your attention.
I also enjoy the work by Margaret Kilgallen. She had a very organic way of working and thinking and I appreciate her because of this. Kilgallen didn’t believe every line had to be straight or that art should be perfect and she shared her work both in the gallery and the streets. I admire the power she projected and wonder what kind of art she would be producing if she were still alive.
One more artist that I look at is Niki de Saint Phalle. Her shooting paintings are captivating and I like to read her thoughts on this particular work. She expressed feeling great when she would shoot and watch the paintings bleed, die and relive because it was a moment of magic ecstasy and truth. I respect this process because she didn’t have any difficulty moving on to keep creating vibrant work.
On space and site:
My geographical location directly impacts the way I make because of the materials that are accessible, especially if it’s another country. When I was in Baltimore, there was an incredible book warehouse called The Book Thing, which offered free books to the public. So, I spent a lot of time composing paper collages. In Mexico, I focused on mercados, which are Mexican marketplaces. During this time, I worked with various goods from these locations including handmade piñatas, plastic tablecloths and washrags. Now that I’m in Chicago, I visit certain thrift stores and fabric warehouses that echo memories from my past growing up in Pilsen.
At times, I don’t have a choice of where I can work. Just like my art, my studio has been an ephemeral journey. In Baltimore, I worked in my room that was also my living room. In Mexico, I worked at a local artist’s studio and the attic studio where I lived and in Chicago it has been a balance between a temporary studio, my living room and the storefront where I teach. Although I haven’t found a home for my practice, I’ve enjoyed walking around with my fabric, needles and finding people who are willing to help. I appreciate the conversations that come from these experiences, which makes my process even more fulfilling.