Mirrors are Reflections of the Heart for Local Artist Couple by Marcia E. Gawecki
After years of showing separately, Michele Tuohey and Oscar Martínez discovered the impact of showing their colorful, spiritual and psychologically powerful oil paintings together. "Mirrors" shown in their internet website and often at different venues around town, reflects their shared Caribbean roots, their dreams and spirituality, command of color and love for each other.
"Our dual show gives us the opportunity to showcase our similarities and differences and provides answers to many questions," says Oscar Martínez, a Chicago painter and muralist, originally from Puerto Rico. Michele Tuohey, his wife, is half Cuban, half Irish and comes from Miami. The way they met and fell in love sounds like something from a telenovela.
"Everything just fell into place," says Martínez, who proposed to Tuohey one week after they met at an arts banquet. "We just followed our feelings," he says, shrugging off any suggestion that they may have rushed into marriage. Actually, the couple had talked once before over the phone when Tuohey called Martínez to solicit donations for a project. "We discovered we’re both from the Caribbean, so we share the same culture, language and food. We also are both spiritual and have a love and respect for nature," Martínez says.
Now, nine years later, the couple is still madly in love. "Each of us are the wings of the same bird," says Tuohey, quoting a line from a poem by Jose Martí, a Cuban poet and revolutionary. Together, they raise their two children, manage a household, paint, promote their "Mirrors" show and enjoy each other’s company. Their secret to the demands of everyday life is to occasionally escape to their studio at the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park. There they paint, talk, laugh, act childish and critique each other’s work.
"Painting can be very solitary. It’s just you and the canvas," Martínez says. "But it’s more wonderful when you step away and get instant feedback from someone you love and respect." They talk about color and composition and what’s working and what isn’t. "I appreciate her good ideas and the honesty of her answers," he adds.
"Years earlier, it was in that same studio where Tuohey discovered she could paint. She would spend long hours drawing while he’d paint. "You are very good," Martínez recalls telling her. You should paint with oils." He showed her how to mix and apply color, and she took it from there.
To her credit, Tuohey has gained recognition for her strong "vibrations of color" and psychological compositions. She says her theatrical acting has influenced each of her paintings as they "come to life as separate stage performances." After earning her degree in performance studies from Northwestern University, she went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from UIC. Currently, she’s on track to earn her juris doctor in the year 2000.
Many of Tuohey’s paintings depict two identical women," writes critic Mario Castillo, an art professor at Columbia College. "Both presumably [are] dealing with life’s conflicting dualities and the balance of the male and female within."