Mirrors are Reflections of the Heart for Local Artist Couple

Marcia E. Gawecki

Tuohey explains: "All of us, men and women alike, have two sides -one that is masculine and one that is feminine. Because of these masculine and feminine qualities, men and women are more alike than we are led to believe. Unfortunately, we are taught to negate the side that society says we are not predisposed to." Tuohey says both sides need to be fulfilled and placed into balance in our daily lives. That is why she portrays women in masculine and feminine poses. For instance, one woman may strike a dance pose while another carries a hammer or wears a Panama hat. "With these male and female symbols, I try to speak to men and women through my paintings," she says.

Tuohey uses interiors in her work because of the duality they represent. "On one hand, men and women have designed and built aesthetically pleasing buildings and homes that protect us from the elements," she says. "Yet, at the same time, these structures have alienated us from nature which we need to feel peaceful and spiritually connected with the earth."

Movement, color, passion and spirituality make up the context of Martínez’s bold oil paintings. He uses many symbols in his paintings that refer to his happy childhood growing up in Maragüez, Puerto Rico. The small town was washed away when the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam on site. Maragüez now sits under a large lake that provides water for the island. Although Martínez cannot return to his hometown, his memories are kept alive in his paintings. They often show his grandmother in a rocking chair, roosters, rocks, boats and arrowhead leaves. The rocks symbolize all that is eternal and everlasting, he says. "There were many rocks in the rivers around Maragüez," he says. "I like the way they were slowly formed grain by grain and made smooth by the river." The heart-shaped arrowhead leaves were also indigenous to the area. He says the Indians used to eat the plant for food. There’s a small potato that can be cut from the root.

According to a review by Ilana Vardy, executive director of Art Chicago, Martínez’s work "commands the viewer’s attention by the activity on the canvas alone. There is no negative space, no breathing room, only vibrancy of color and composition." He adds that the dynamic and tactile quality of Martinez’s work lures the viewer inside the painting, forcing questions, creating a need to solve the mystery. The images are vital, stirring and often disturbing. Martínez’s striped female figure represents an image of nothingness.

Martínez explains: "I’ve always been fascinated by man’s ability to believe in things unseen -such as the soul, God and heaven. The striped female is a takeoff on the "Big Bang" concept that man was created out of darkness. I thought it would be interesting to depict an image that was carved out of dark layers of paint and brought to life." So line by line, Martínez "carves" this striped female form into the light of the canvas. "If you look closely, you’ll see that there is no figure there. Only lines," he says.

It took Martinez nearly seven years to perfect the striped figure, which is part of his signature style. He remained secluded in his studio until he was fully satisfied with what he saw.

Martínez’s resume reads like an artist who has dedicated his lifetime to his craft. He graduated with a degree in medical drawing from UIC and was an active member of Chicago’s mural movement in the seventies. As a young artist, Martínez was involved with socio-political issues, including the displacement of Latino neighborhoods. The murals helped to satisfy his political and creative expressions at the time. One of these murals can still be seen on North Avenue, west of Humbolt Park.

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