To kick off our “In the Studio” video series, where we offer a behind-the-scenes look at how Long Beach’s creative community thrives, we’re stepping into the work space of Oaxaca-born artist, Narsiso Martinez, who draws attention to the lives of field workers through his artwork. Watch the full video above and keep reading for a Q&A with the artist.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Describe a day in the life of Narsiso Martinez. What’s your studio routine; what do you do before getting to work?
First thing in the morning is coffee, either homemade or from the coffee house around the corner. Reading, checking and replying to emails is a part of it. I don’t spend time every day in the studio like I’d like to, but when I do, I like long hours. A typical day in the studio includes staring at my drawing or painting I’m working on for a long time. I just sit or stand in front of it for long periods of time. I like to think about what I’m doing, I try to explore every inch of the piece and question as many aspects of it as possible, including composition, subject matter, color, materials, concept, etc. Eventually, I grab the materials and physically start working on it. I often immerse myself in the drawing that I miss a sense of time. I think that’s why I like long hours in the studio.
Who are three artists that have influenced you artwork and why?
Three artists who have influenced my work and my way of thinking about art are Vincent Van Gogh, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and David Hammons. Van Gogh inspired me to paint peasants and agricultural landscapes which are very familiar. His work reminds me of scenarios growing up in my native Oaxaca, Mexico. Siqueiros taught me that creating art for the masses and addressing working class issues in the community is important. In a more contemporary way, David Hammons continues to inspire me to create art with socio-political themes but with a new twist. Hammons work includes a large range of discarded materials which range from discarded chicken wing bones, empty soda bottles, and discarded rugs or pieces of clothing.
What has been the response to FARM FRESH so far? What are some insights that you’ve heard from the community about your work?
First, I have to say I am very grateful to all the supporters who made Farm Fresh possible and to people like you to help spread the word. Thank you for your support. The overall response from visitors have been positive. I have had the pleasure to speak about my work and about Farm Fresh to different audiences, from 5th graders to high school students, art history students, other artists, and art educators, and we all agree that shining a light on the plight of the farm workers is important and really necessary, especially in this day and age.
Now that Farm Fresh has been on view since October, is there anything you would have done differently?
No, I think the show includes different media, from painting, drawing, collage, printmaking, and installation on 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional supports. That speaks to the different ways an artist could choose to go. The subject matter I believe is cohesive throughout.
What’s next for you and/or what are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a piece that will be included in Protest, Noun, a group show in January at the Torrance Art Museum curated by Max Presneill. I will also be an artist in residence for the month of May (tentatively) at the Fountainhead Residency and Studios in Miami in 2019. My desire to learn and represent the Latinx community through art is taking me to new places. This last statement is in the works, so that’s all I can say about that for now.
Martinez’ first institutional solo exhibition, Farm Fresh, is still on view at the Long Beach Museum of Art through Jan. 6, 2019, located at 2300 E. Ocean Blvd. For more information, visit the museum’s website here.
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