Monica Aissa Martinez was born in 1962 in El Paso, Texas. She currently teaches at Phoenix College. She also is on the Arizona Commission for the Arts artist roster for teaching workshops. She has had numerous shows throughout the country, and has sold her work to many collectors. An artist whose philosophical palette blends equal parts intellect and image, she produces paintings, drawings, prints and mixed media works on paper.
LPM: Explain how the art you produced for your Another Mental Concoction show at Eye Lounge a couple of years ago, which had the themes of culture and politics, differs from your current artwork.
MAM: Mental Concoction is based on internal dialogues dealing with the external world … the world I am a part of, the culture I come from, the community that labels me. I naturally resist being boxed in, or categorized. It’s not conducive to being creative. I was clarifying for myself my role, options, and choices. If I was/am going to be labeled, I can try and have some say in it.
The new work is internal; literally, it deals with the workings of the physical body and mind, the coordination of beliefs and action (function). I am investigating networks, interactions between body and mind. Eventually it connects to greater spirit. The source, or where I, we, all of it, comes from. This work is spiritual, internal searching, as opposed to an external and intellectual, in Mental Concoction.
LPM: During a presentation in which you talked about becoming an artist, you mentioned that during one period of your career you were afraid of color, although most of your art pieces are explosions of color. Can you explain what you meant by that comment?
MAM: While in school I studied ceramics, metal-smithing, print-making and drawing. I worked in a very monochromatic, if not completely black and white, palette. I always wanted to paint and explore color. I did so after I completed school. I could study and work it at my own pace. Maybe I was nervously reacting to the hierarchy in school and in the art world at the time (it is no longer this way) … painters, appeared to be at the top of the hierarchy. If I failed, no one would know. I was on a mission to learn, it was an exciting discovery. I now use a monochromatic palette when I want communication to be direct and/or intellectual. If I want to move you with emotion, I might do it with color.
LPM: In what ways were you involved with the Triumph of our Communities book, and the Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art volumes from Bilingual Review Press?
MAM: My works were included in all the books. Early on, I was commissioned to create a lithograph. Eventually the work was purchased and exhibited. I participated in auctions, teaching and lectures. I met numerous people involved at all the various levels of the organization. I thought (the) artists worked hard … this whole organization/community works hard … for a greater purpose.
LPM: What were your feelings about being involved in those art history and documentation volumes?
MAM: I am grateful that my work is a part of the publications. They educate our community about the culture and its variety. I receive e-mails from students and teachers who know and use the books. I come from a family of teachers; education is a big part of who I am as a persona and as an artist. I have a sister who teaches art in El Paso, she uses the books. And my work is placed now … into history … that’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Gary Keller, the HRC (ASU Hispanic Research Center) and the press created a space for the Latino community to express and inform.
LPM: When is your next gallery show, and what
will be the theme?
MAM: I am scheduled for Outsiders Within, a group exhibit, at the Tempe Center for the Arts. The show will run April 25 to July 4.
I am in discussion with Phoenix College about a solo exhibition (Vital Commotion, my current work) in their new gallery space, sometime in the coming school year.