“I’ve always been interested in how objects can become a testament to our own history, personified, and elevated beyond their initial purpose.”
“My work is an assemblage of wheel thrown and stacked functional forms that explore the idea of transitions.” Artists often pull from what is familiar, or what they know, but artists like Antonio Martinez are re-envisioning the familiar and asking their viewers to enjoy a new understanding of his pieces. Martinez’s work has been exhibited around the country and he has been a teacher and mentor for many through his time with various universities and art centers. Martinez produces exceptional work that has often been featured in Ceramics Monthly, including the latest article in April 2021. His exceptional work plays a balancing act between many concepts including tranquility and vibrancy, function and subject, or historical purpose and elevated future functions. Martinez explained that, “I want to contribute to the ceramics world in a thoughtful, meaningful, and progressive way”.
Martinez discovered his passion for the ceramic art form in college; “When I first went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had some experience with ceramics/art in high school so decided to take some classes. I was hooked from there”. He earned his BFA in ceramics from Wichita State University in 2014 and credits the program and the people involved with it as major influences in his future successful ceramics career; “My time as an undergraduate at Wichita State University was a special experience with all the people in that ceramics program. The faculty and graduate students were so generous with their time and knowledge. Being in that environment made me want to pursue a career in ceramics”. He also pulls inspirations for his current work and process from his unique childhood experiences. Martinez explained that, “Growing up in a shop, work and play went hand in hand. I was surrounded by ornamental iron, tools, and machines that looked like they had lived through multiple lifetimes. This place was also constantly paired with its own culture of rich festivities, traditions, and celebrations that came with having a robust family. The two lived in harmony and the idea of function became subjective. I’ve always been interested in how objects can become a testament to our own history, personified, and elevated beyond their initial purpose. As I move through time and drift away from what was common and familiar, I often reflect on these experiences that help inform my work”.
Martinez produces incredible work, but he had to embark on his own journey to find a way to break out of making things that were completely comfortable or familiar. As he said in his latest Ceramics Monthly feature, during his time in graduate school, “My ideas were all over the place, since I wanted to avoid getting stuck in making objects that were comfortable. Stepping away from functional ceramics for a while allowed me to approach it with a new perspective on form”. Martinez’s work often strives to embody transition within his pieces and to capture the moment when they become more than how they were originally created to function; the transition out of the comfort of familiarity. His unique process seeks to capture this concept in every step of creation; “My approach to constructing form is analogous to the fabrication of the ornamental iron work we made. I strive to create forms that offer a similar presence through a sense of tranquility in their quiet and composed nature. Slip and textures are added to activate forms but are then muted with black glaze to obscure their ornamentation. These are then contrasted with moments of active, vibrant glaze that blend and define lines between fluxed and stable surfaces. Through balance and poise, I hope to allow my forms to become small monuments that enable the viewer to reflect upon the vessels and begin to re-contextualize their roles and function”.
Martinez has found great success due to his incredible work and is incredibly grateful to the ceramics industry for the opportunities he has been able to take advantage of; “My time is still going, but for the most part the ceramics world has been good to me. It has opened up many doors and opportunities that I am very fortunate for. That’s not to say I’ve had my fair share of rejections which I have had a lot of”. However, Martinez has explained that merely having access to opportunities is one part; you have to be willing to push yourself and have the confidence to take advantage of them. When asked what the most challenging part of working with clay has been, he told Ceramics Monthly this year, “The most challenging aspect of working in clay in terms of building a career has been feeling confident with my work and being consistent. Once I knew I really wanted to pursue this career, I realized I had to be active in getting my work out of my studio and outside of my community. To achieve this, I set goals and made lists of opportunities each year. A lot of those opportunities I had missed because I never felt that my work was ready to be shown” but that, “Once I started to gain that confidence and exhibit more frequently, additional opportunities started to open up”. This lesson is one that many emerging artists have to come to understand, and Martinez wants these artists to push themselves in an effort to find success; “My advice for other artists would be to set goals, be persistent, and find ways to challenge yourself within your studio practice in any and all ways. That could mean applying for exhibitions that you wouldn’t normally do or creating in new and different ways. Hard work pays off, you just don’t always know when”. Antonio Martinez understands the importance of having the confidence to take advantage of opportunities, and the success one can find by doing so. With a dedication to improvement and a passion for capturing his inspirations, Martinez produces work that in exquisite in nature and beautifully embodies the transitions he works to capture.
Educational/Personal Growth Opportunity
“My advice for other artists would be to set goals, be persistent, and find ways to challenge yourself within your studio practice in any and all ways. That could mean applying for exhibitions that you wouldn’t normally do or creating in new or different ways. Hard work pays off, you just don’t always know when.”
Think about where you are on your artistic journey and where you want to be. What are your goals as an artist and how are you going to get there? Write down some ways that you can challenge yourself, opportunities you can try to take advantage of, and changes you can commit to making to reach those goals.
2021 Emerging Artist: Antonio Martinez. Ceramic Arts Network, 12 Apr. 2021, ceramicartsnetwork.org/ceramics-monthly/ceramic-art-and-artists/ceramic-artists/2021-emerging-artist-antonio-martinez/#.