In many ways, the healing process is a process of creativity. It is an exercise in going deep within ourselves to piece together courage, strength, and hope in order to create something meaningful from what is otherwise chaotic. It is our body’s intrinsic ability to soothe a lost or broken spirit in order to help it chart a course and find purpose in events and experiences that have left us baffled or wounded in some way. By the same token, art-making makes it easier for us to move through paths of grief and loss. It paves the way for self-expression so we may begin to release what hurts us and create a world that is more colorful and humane.
In this issue of Art Motif Magazine, we are proud to feature Cecilia Martinez, an established and recognized Jersey City writer and poet who, in recent years, has found in the visual arts a new creative outlet and form of self-expression. Cecilia’s work has been exhibited in multiple galleries and art spaces in Jersey City and Hoboken, NJ. Following, take a look at our conversation with Cecilia to see how she exemplifies both the pain and beauty of the artistic soul’s journey from darkness toward healing light.
What is essential to your work as an artist? Inspiration is essential to my artwork. I can sit in front of a canvas for hours, paintbrush in hand, but if I am not inspired to create, the canvas will remain blank. My head must be swirling with ideas, colors, and images. My heart must be filled with an intense desire to reveal itself through art. Without those elements, my artwork is meaningless. And there is nothing worse than purposeless art.
What works, events, or moments in your life have influenced your art? My road to becoming a visual artist began in 2015. That year, my father, Rafael Martinez, was found lying on a street in Jersey City. He suffered a severe head injury that left him unable to speak, walk, stand, and even breathe on his own. His injury was so severe that he was admitted into the hospital for months. Being his sole caretaker, I witnessed the horrors that he endured every single day from his injuries. It caused me great distress.
My father died as a result of his injuries. When he passed, I was by his side holding his hand and repeatedly telling him I loved him as he took his last breaths. Shortly after, his death was determined to be a homicide and my life was forever changed.
A few months later, still reeling from what I had experienced and mourning from the loss, I began searching for an outlet to alleviate all of the chaotic feelings inside of me. I turned to the visual arts as a therapeutic outlet. To be quite honest, art saved my life. It soothed my soul and for that I will be forever grateful.
How do your background, cultural roots, and/or sense of identity manifest in your art? I am currently in the process of creating a series of artwork I call “The Self Portraits” which is a combination of mixed media/collages that all incorporate an image of myself within the works. Each piece depicts a different struggle I have dealt with while healing from my father’s death, from depression, PTSD, isolation, personal conflicts, and more. Each piece reflects a powerful story. The reaction from the exhibits I have shown these works in has been superb with one person even stating that the pieces are “amazing and inspiring.”
How has your artistic practice changed over time? When I first started my artistic endeavors, I created what I called spiritual art. It was art that concerned religion and the soul, subjects that I thought would ease my mind and provide comfort during one of my most difficult times. Since then, however, my style has evolved dramatically as I have become more comfortable with my skills and experimenting with different artistic techniques. I currently work on pop art, collages, and more yet still focus on the primary reason for why I started this journey in the first place—to heal.
Do you have a preferred genre/style/medium? Many of my works for “The Self Portraits” are created through collaging, using a variety of mediums, such as acrylics, spray paint, colored pencils, newspapers, and magazines. I also create other multimedia work using charcoal, marker, and colored pencil to create different textures and scenes from a variety of media all incorporated into one artistic element.
What is your creative process? What does a typical day of creative expression look like for you? When I create a new work of art, it is normally done while I sit in my father’s favorite gray leather recliner, which is now a fixture in my bedroom. With art supplies scattered around me, I can sit for hours and constantly create new work. My pieces never come out as good as when I am sitting in that chair.
Different people perceive and respond differently to art. Do you recall any memorable responses by others to your works? One of the most memorable responses to my work was when I received a handwritten, personal note from the First Lady of New Jersey saying my mixed media paintings were beautiful.
What piece of advice would you give other aspiring artists? Inspiration comes in many forms. Trust in your heart, it is your best artistic tool.
To learn more about Cecilia and see more of her work, click on the following link:
- Instagram: @cecilia_martinez_jc