Martha (Squared) | The Nature of Women

Martha (Squared) | The Nature of Women May 21 - June 1st, Kerrville, TX

Opening Reception Friday, May 21st 5-8pm 235 Earl Garrett Street, Kerrville, TX

For Martha Rea Baker and Martha Mans the outdoors is a place of spiritual revery. Their paintings, however, do not tremble with religiosity. Rather, they speak volumes about the complex nature of art about Nature in a very quiet, but very direct way: some of the images in the show at Slate Gray Kerrville are serene; others, more introspective; but all powerful statements about the disparate talents of the two featured artists.

Martha Rea Baker:

Hudson River master George Inness famously said, “You must suggest to me reality. You can never show me reality.”

Baker’s abstract landscapes are postcards from the interior, reflecting not a traditional landscape per se, but her attitude towards a particular landscape. The artist’s special gift lies in an unerring ability to mold her passion for her surroundings into a reflection of private feelings and sensations, at their best – and her new images qualify – a synthesis of direct observation, memory and fantasy.

Martha Rea Baker works primarily in encaustic (melted beeswax fused with heat), but also in oil/cold wax and acrylic. Those meditative, thought-provoking, mixed-media paintings are characterized by a textural surface enlivened by incised lines, the addition of marks, and the scraping back of the ground to enhance the depth of each work.

Baker begins her paintings intuitively, drawing with various marking tools such as charcoal, oil pastel, china marker or fluid paint. She then continues in a playful state, free from judgement and hesitation as long as possible, affording the image a life of its own in which each and every brushstroke, line and layer informs the next exactly as in a jazz improv.

Born in Corsicana, Texas, Baker earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Santa Barbara, then returned to Texas where she studied art at the University of Dallas and drawing and printmaking at Collin College in Plano. The artist also traveled abroad to Greece, Italy, Russia, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Spain to further open her mind and train her eye.
A founding member of Gallery VII in Plano where she lived for over 20 years, Baker and her husband relocated to New Mexico in 2006.

Southwest Art, “Women in the Arts” and Watercolor have celebrated Baker’s work. The May 2016 issue of Art and Antiques featured her oil/cold wax paintings. And, as a signature member of the Southwestern Watercolor Society and the Mississippi Watercolor Society, Baker’s highly collected paintings have been chosen over the years for inclusion in numerous national and international invitational exhibitions.

Martha Mans:

Historically, perceptually, objective and non-objective art have always been inseparable, in part because all art draws our attention through its formal energy, its vibe.

And, because the human brain cannot help itself, because it is hard to just be and enjoy, even abstract paintings wind up being endowed with representational quality – but the work of Martha Mans poses no challenge for our squash. Mans is an objective or representational or realistic artist, which means her work depicts easily recognizable subject matter; her muse, like Baker’s: Mother Nature.

But still....Although Mans clearly depicts her surroundings as they are, she lives Nature from the inside:
“All great landscape artists take the time to observe their subjects and internalize them until they have something to express on their canvases that is totally and uniquely theirs. Anytime I choose to paint, whether it is in New Mexico or Italy and France, I like to find the elements, no matter how small, that speak of the particular qualities that express the uniqueness of that particular scene. It can be just the warmness or coolness of the light or the rhythm of the elements in the foreground. Sometimes it is the small things in the landscape or subject, that many fail to see, that I like to discover and that add just the right note to my painting.“

Further, and to reinforce the aforementioned concept about how the energy or vibe of a painting is what ultimately draws a viewer in, Mans explains:

“Rhythm is a very important element in my work. I treat it in a very musical way. The rhythm of the painting is very much like playing wonderful music. There are runs, pauses, small notes and repetitions along the way into and in the viewing of each of my paintings. I try for a sense of a physical movement as I guide the viewer into the landscape or subject I have chosen to paint.”

In other words, what you see, what you feel, is what you get, a fact about Mans’ work that is also rings true of Baker’s abstractions.

A master realist painter, Martha Mans she was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she attended Carlow University and received a degree in art and art education. Later she studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the University of Southern California.

At the start of her career Mans worked as an art teacher and art department head in Maryland and California. After becoming a full-time artist, she taught watercolor and oil painting workshops in the United States and abroad. After moving to Colorado Mans became a master instructor for a branch of the Art Student’s League in Colorado Springs and then set up classes in her studio where she presently teaches.

Mans was director for many years of large adventure workshops combining painting and exploration. Some of these adventures include Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keefe painted; a yearly excursion on a Clipper Ship in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas; and an exciting workshop in Salvador, Brazil.
Mans’ work has been featured in many art publications such as: Southwest Art Magazine, Artist’s Magazine, Watercolor Artist’s Magazine and Art Collector’s Magazine and has received many awards in national juried competitions. The artist was also awarded signature membership into the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society.

In conclusion:

Whether you are drawn to the non-objective work of Martha Rea Baker or the realism of Martha Mans – or both – what the two women share is a unique ability to luxuriate in and celebrate everyday surroundings in ways that trigger a wide range of emotional responses that can change with a viewer’s mood like the weather. The result is an addictive read of the region of their choice written in glorious colors and textures.
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