C California Style

Artist AMERICA MARTIN at work in her studio. PHOTO: Jacob Khan.
Red Poppies, 2015. PHOTO: America Martin, 2015, Oil and Ink on Archival Cotton Rag Print, 18 × 16 Inches, Location: Joanne Artman Gallery.
The spacious sitting area of her live/work space. PHOTO: Jacob Khan
Woman, 2015. PHOTO: America Martin, 2015, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 63⅞ × 33½ Inches, Location: Joanne Artman Gallery.

Liberal Arts

by C California Style

A trip to AMERICA MARTIN’s expansive live/work space reveals a prolific young artist’s flourishing body of work.

“This year has been a rejuvenation, and a scaling back,” says artist America Martin. To the observer who enters her expansive studio in the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood located west of Downtown L.A., the latter part of this claim is hard to comprehend. Martin’s open live/work building, a former drapery warehouse, is stocked full with recently completed and in-progress oil and acrylic paintings on coarse linens. Massive, expressive canvases evoking Picasso and early-20th-century masters, such as Fernand Léger, are stacked against walls. Not to mention sculptures, too.

Her loft space breathes and breeds creativity. Martin’s kitchen area upstairs accommodates quiet work breaks and dinner parties; a spacious sitting area below features history and art books and vintage film posters (her favorites are of The Red Balloon and a Serbian poster for the 1972 Ken Russell film Savage Messiah). Here, she also hosts dramatic readings of plays and screenplays, and even friends’ aromatherapy workshops. With a wiry figure, a buoyant manner and bright hazel-green eyes, the 35-year-old is intensely ambitious.

The arts are a part of her DNA: Her mother, Margaret Martin, founded the Harmony Project, a nonprofit organization that provides music education in underserved communities. After spending one year at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (studying everything from welding to photography), Martin was determined to disprove a professor’s advice to always have a plan B. In 2001, she moved into her mom’s garage in Hollywood in order to pursue art full time.

Martin’s resolve paid off. She is represented by the JoAnne Artman Gallery in Laguna Beach and New York, and her celebrity collectors include Kirsten Dunst, Giovanni Ribisi, Simon Helberg, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.

“I’m finding more narratives for series of works I’m doing,” Martin says, mentioning social issues as an example. The resulting pieces aren’t overtly politicized nor her version of Guernica. A professed lover of art history and anthropology, Martin expresses the past through her work, but in balance with the present. “I’m always interested in tomorrow,” she says. “Or now.” joanneartmangallery.com; americamartin.com. • JESSICA RITZ