Using previous hardships as motivation and inspiration to create the art we see today, Mauro C. Martinez looks for a common thread among found images to connect human behaviors within us all. It allows him to relate to his work on a more fundamental level. When asked about his quietly disruptive nature, he says “any success I’ve experienced now is a direct result of those quiet, early years.” While his works may take on an ironic or comedic tilt, they are enormously thoughtful, with each one being considered and reconsidered over and over until Martinez is absolutely certain the work is how he wants it to be. Through art, he establishes a way to cope with his past, present, and future, thus leaning on the creative form as a sort of therapy. He was empowered by his family to do what he loved after a difficult time in his life, and is widely supported by fans online. Extending the reach of his work from the small town of Laredo across social media, he ended up exhibiting coast to coast. Poking fun at the exact culture from which he might attribute his success is all part of his practice, and in the following interview, you clearly pick up on that part of his personality.
“Dialogue.” Oil on canvas. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally and when did art first enter your life?
My name is Mauro. I was born and raised in Laredo, TX but have been living and working in San Antonio for a little over a year. Creative endeavors were always generally encouraged in my family growing up. When the movie Titanic came out I was about 11; I thought Jack Dawson (Leo DiCap’s character) was so cool with his leather sketchbook and I remember my grandma giving me this old leather folio with a few blank sheets of a paper and a pencil. I felt very official. On weekend visits, my great grandma and great aunt had shelves of “how to draw” books of everything from people to imaginary creatures. I’d copy pages right out of the book and they’d treat it as though it were the original. I have so many memories of my family empowering me like that.
“Hand sanitizer”. Oil on canvas. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
Your website is fitted with a simple phrase on your About page; “quietly disruptive.” What does that mean and how do you find it to perfectly encapsulate who you are?
Ultimately, I think it’s about my belief in art itself as a tool for good. I recently celebrated 10 years free of IV heroin addiction. When I started painting out of rehab (I was inpatient for 1 year), those early years were spent making paintings for literally no audience. But none of that mattered because I was doing something that wasn’t drugs for the first time in a long time. Any success I’ve experienced now is a direct result of those quiet, early years. I truly believe in the power of those years and I try to keep that same mindset moving forward.
“Install”. Oil on canvas. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
What is your process like? How do you begin a work?
I normally start by selecting an image which comes from a growing library of screenshots. After selecting an image the next consideration is scale. If the painting requires learning a new technique, like the blurred Sensitive Content paintings necessitating an airbrush and use of silkscreen, I’ll make small studies until I’m comfortable. If I scale an image up, I’ll either project the original reference or the smaller study onto a canvas. Depending on whether it’s a blur painting or not, I’ll either block in the first values with an airbrush or lay in light washes with a brush. I try to set daily/weekly goals for each painting: “Finish dress and both legs”, “painting finished by next Friday.”
“Painting is just slow memes.” Oil on canvas. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
How would you describe a perfect day in the studio?
The perfect studio day starts with an iced coffee and one of these weenies on a stick I get every morning at this convenience store on the way. Ideal weather conditions are like mid 70’s. Low humidity. Slight breeze. Alanis Morissette kicking off a playlist that features everything from gospel to trap.
“Photosynthesis”. Oil on canvas. 72″x84. Courtesy of the artist.
If someone asked you to describe your style, what three words would you use and why?
Curious, diverse, honest. I think the decisions I make are in service of the image itself. Stylistic choices are decided by what that specific picture necessitates. Responding to images this way has lead me through a wide range of depictions, all of which I’ve responded to on their own terms.
From where do you draw inspiration?
People, mostly. Our behavior.
“Practice Makes Purrfect.” Oil on canvas. 72″x60. Courtesy of the artist.
Do any historical movements or individuals come to mind when considering what informs your work?
When I look at some of my early influences like Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud, I see the common thread that runs through them is their painting habits. When I read about their practice and work they possess a kind of quiet devotion and I find I’m very drawn to that. This pattern of temperament seems to be a historical movement in and of itself and the one I think I’m most conscious of in terms of how it affects my work.
“Social Distancing.” Oil on canvas. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
What source material do you base your work off of?
Screenshots from Instagram or Google searches. Memes and “cursed images”. Sometimes Youtube screenshots as well. Photos I take myself. Stock images. I’m interested in these various formats and what happens when you translate them into painting.
“Summer 2020” Oil on canvas. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
“Sensitive Content No. 13”. Acrylic on panel. 8×10. Courtesy of the artist.
Long days in the studio!
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?