Steady Hands, Blurry Vision: Joseph Martinez

Born in Denver in 1983, Joseph Martinez is the third oldest of eight siblings. According to birth order traits, this most likely influenced Joseph’s cooperative, flexible, and competitive behavior, while his ultimate concern would be of fairness. As I read through my notes to search for an angle, it all made sense. With that many siblings you soon realize your limited material options so perhaps borrowing clothes, sharing a room, or using the same toys coaxes you into a collective ideal while never having a true sense of private ownership or individual identity. Moreover, this would influence you to be more creative and curious in order to compete for your parents’ or siblings’ attention. Growing up in an Apostolic Christian household, Joseph mostly stayed indoors and resisted the ‘going outside to play’ temptation, which at the time living in a rough neighborhood in Bakersfield surrounded by gangs and drugs was probably the best option. It didn’t last long though, at thirteen he went to live with his father back in Denver and went from several siblings to none.

When your world takes on a dramatic shift of this sort the transition could be overwhelming. Going from a cooperative state as a middle child to individual freedom and liberty as an only child could be staggering. In a way Joseph Martinez is an outlier, something empirical data cannot understand because most research done on birth order traits doesn’t take into consideration a rupture within the development process. For the first time, Joseph learned isolation. He began to fill the void with art, his first tool being an airbrush, which his father gave him as a form of acknowledgment in his individual pursuit of identity. A promising star of track and field as well, he had a serious accident and lost his scholarship to college, which left him in a state of depression. Moreover, he was targeted by bullies for being soft-spoken, non-aggressive, and considered a pushover, so he began to regain control and fight back. While on a trip to Sacramento he visited San Francisco and it changed his life. The bustling creativity of the city, the art of Sam Flores, coupled with a sense of belonging inspired him, and six months later he moved there and enrolled in the Academy of Art, but dropped out shortly thereafter.

School taught him individual perspective, yet working at White Walls Gallery taught him cooperation, flexibility, and competitiveness. In a way it took him back to his family dynamic, back to a state of collectivism where he did things like cleaning toilets to helping with installations, which showed him the reality of a working artist and the behind the scenes of the art community. At the end of the day, it seems like we are all on the same quest for belonging and a sense of community. The individual, narcissistic era has left us empty with a yearning for meaning. He moved back to Denver to slow down a bit and concentrate on his creativity, and one day he invited himself to a show where the gallery asked for five pieces, and he showed up with sixteen. All were accepted, all were sold, and life has never been the same since. He has shown in galleries across the United States, Canada, and Australia, and has a current exhibit, Steady Hands, Blurry Vision, at the Soze Gallery in the Downtown L.A. Arts District. His ability to create miniature masterpieces on matchbooks using oil paint is beyond breathtaking and can be truly appreciated as you stand in front of them. You should take the opportunity and enjoy this fine artist at Soze Gallery, 2020 E. 7th St, Los Angeles, 90021.


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