In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.
Isabel M. Martinez uses an analog camera and photographic film as “a vehicle to engage with the uncertain amid the assumed and probe the boundary between abstraction and representation, fact and fiction.” Her series “Quantum Blink," explores the idea that words such as eternity and infinity are known by definition but cannot really be understood in any tangible sense. Martinez, after a lot of experimentation, used a slicing technique to create fascinating imagery that ponders the idea of what our brain might record during a second of consciousness. We caught up with the Chilean photographer who now resides in Toronto to ask her about her career in fine art. To read more about Martinez and “Quantum Blink” head to Slate’s photo blog Behold.
1. What steps have you taken to get where you are with your work?
I did not, unfortunately, have the privilege of growing up in an artistic environment or a household that encouraged a creative path, neither a mentor in my extended family or school. So, firstly, I invested in an education. Now, that is a rather obvious route to take and it does not truly guarantee anything (ie. Art career, financial security, let alone success, etc.), but it helps. Consider as well this was in a country that offered little to no support for the arts; and in a city that, though being the capital, had a practically nonexistent gallery scene.
Shortly after graduating with a BFA, I realized the need to push things further not only by enrolling in a reputable MFA program, but by making sure said postgraduate studies took place in a foreign country with a different language, culture and approach to the Visual Arts. Alas, an MFA does not guarantee anything either, especially if one is not looking to go down the academic/teaching lane.
It is up to the individual. After graduating from Guelph, I emigrated to Canada and moved to Toronto. I sacrificed my entire world, left it all behind and started building a new one from absolute zero. I found myself having to penetrate an entirely new art community—should note here that I am not the most social of butterflies. Some art communities or factions within them can be hermetic and resistant; particularly when you lack roots or any connections whatsoever and find yourself starting from nothing. Perseverance, resilience, endurance and a thick skin are key. Then of course, is your artwork, without it all else in nonsense, and yet… it is an odd and backwards order things are in these days, shouldn’t the artwork come first?
2. How have you gotten exposure for your work and connected to an audience and collectors?
To a certain extent all exposure of my work is, in one way or another, the result of successful submissions. Submissions to calls from artists run centers, art galleries, awards, competitions, publications and any other opportunity that meets the basic conditions of ethical artistic professionalism. I have respect for submission-based opportunities because decisions are (or are supposed to be) made based on the quality of the artwork. In turn, these have led me to national and international exhibitions, invitations to participate in curated art projects, presence in art book publications, press, and sales. Finally, and in the recent past, the internet has played a valuable role insofar reaching distant international audiences via art sites, online art publications, and art blogs.
3. If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art career, what would that look like?
I will respond this one in the present tense. I dedicate my time solely and uniquely to my art practice, it expands through various disciplines. My work has found its place in the world not because of my name, Isabel M. Martínez, or my ‘brand’, but because it is relevant in an of itself, because it makes people ponder, question, and wonder. I join others in promoting the inclusion of artworks by female artists (present and past) in museums, biennials, publications, academic curriculums, and among art collections so it may more closely reflect the true demographic of the visual arts. I work closely with scientists, philosophers and other artists. I stay humble, curious and hardworking.