You went to school for fashion design before dropping out to pursue drawing/painting. Talk about your progression with art. How much of a role did it play in your life growing up and when did you start to pursue it (both the fashion design and the “fine art.”)
My love of fine art started to develop in fashion school when I realized I was spending more time giving my illustrations emotions and soul than I was on designing the actual garment.
You’re from Tacoma, Washington. The Pacific Northwest has an infamous history and relationship with people of color. Did you notice this growing up? Do you think it’s changed/evolved? Has this affected your art?
At a very young age, I became aware that my family, who are all Black and brown, had to work harder to get our voices heard. This is unfortunately all too familiar for people across the nation who look like me.
Much of your work revolves around the stories of yourself as a woman of color as well as the stories/perspectives of others around you. What specifically draws you to a particular narrative or subject? Are there any other sources for inspiration or reference for you?
I’ve always been drawn to telling the stories of those whose stories often go untold or unheard. I feel an urgency to continue to do this based on my experiences and the experiences of those around me.
You recently completed a 52-foot mural at the World Trade Center. Tell us a bit about the piece and the inspiration behind it. Does your process differ when working on something of this scale compared to a smaller, personal piece?
I am honored to have a piece at the World Trade Center and one that tells such an important and timely story: The ever-evolving growth and perseverance of Black and brown women. The technical aspect changes when I am doing a piece at this scale but the story and mission always stays the same.
Your partner, Al-Baseer Holly, is also an artist. What type of environment does this create when you two are together? How would you describe the process when the two of you collaborate?
Our process is a very natural one. It’s nothing we talk or think about too much. When you have two people who have an urgency to create and whose missions are aligned, you end up making art together. We’re looking forward to showing all of the work we’ve done over the past few months at our upcoming art show, titled “Two Sides to Every Story” in Downtown Los Angeles in mid-November. We’re very excited to share more about this project over the next few weeks.
How would you describe the progression of your art since you began?
I’ve been able to better perfect my storytelling and connect to a wider range of people. When I started my work was naturally centered more around fashion because of how I got my start. As I’ve continued my career, I’ve been able to better focus on the actual storytelling behind each piece.
Do you have a dedicated space when you’re working? If so, describe that. If not, describe the space where the majority of your work is done. What are your “must-haves” for a productive day? (items, music, etc.)
I have a studio in Seattle where I do most of my work. It’s what you would imagine from an artist – a truly creative space – it’s small, my artwork is everywhere, paint all over the place. Everything I need is here. All I need to do my work is to feel connected to the canvas.
What does the future look like for you, both short and long term? Any goals/plans in particular?
My goal is to keep making art and continue to tell our stories while the world is listening, and even if they aren’t.
Select pieces from Cristina Martinez are available at RSVP Gallery now at the link below.