An Interview with Artist Jamie Martinez

This month I have for you a fascinating interview with artist Jamie Martinez, who recently participated in a climate-themed group show at Yi Gallery in New York City. Jamie is a Colombian/American artist who immigrated to Florida at the age of twelve, where he eventually attended The Miami International University of Art and Design before moving to New York. Jamie is also the publisher of Arte Fuse, a contemporary art platform that gives more visibility to art shows and is a home to several artist interviews. In addition, Jamie is the founder and director of The Border Project Space, which was recently featured in Hyperallergic’s top 15 shows of 2018. The space is dedicated to showing the work of immigrants. 

Why do you focus on climate change in your art?
 
Climate change is very important to me. I believe that we have to protect and take care of Mother Earth. The way things are going, we are not going to leave much of a future to humankind, and this is a serious problem. It seems like we are only looking out for ourselves. Change has to come, and as an artist, I feel the need to say something.
 
Your work also addresses immigration. What role do you see art playing in the world at large when it comes to big, complex issues like immigration and climate change?
 
About a year and a half ago, I opened an art space called The Border to address the issue of immigration. I only curate group shows there with mostly immigrant artists. I want to give them a platform to display and nurture their work so that they can create even better work. It’s also a place where immigrant artists can network and meet other immigrant artists. 

When it comes to climate change, it seems like a lot of artists are taking on this subject more and more. I think that [artists] can help influence and educate the young so they can be future protectors of this wonderful planet. Art can also help communicate the enormity of the problem and what might face us if things don’t change. 

VR Unity – Global Warming. This painting is a simulation Jamie constructed using UNITY software (virtual reality software).

Triangulation is a repeated motif throughout your work. What draws you to these shapes and patterns?
 
I have always been obsessed with the triangle and especially the tetrahedron. I find this shape very strong and mysterious, and when you put a lot of triangles together, the shape becomes even stronger. That’s because it spreads its weight evenly throughout its form. I use the concept of triangulation throughout my work. My process involves constructing, deconstructing and fragmenting images, data, and information geometrically into triangulated segments. 
 
Please tell me about your recent experience showing work at the Yi Gallery in New York City with other artists who are exploring climate themes. What did you take away from that experience?
 
I enjoyed participating in that show. Cecilia Jalboukh did a superb job of putting the show together. I thought that all the pieces complimented each other, giving the show depth and meaning. We got some great press, including coverage in Vogue China. It was also great to show with a friend and to get to meet and know the other two artists in the show. 

Sacred Quetzal Mayan Poem, oil and spray paint with silver leaf and embroidered thread

You lived in Miami after immigrating to the United States. Did spending some of your formative years in a city threatened by sea-level rise affect your views of climate change – and of art?
 
I am a surfer, so I pay a lot of attention to water. It is sad to see that every time I go to Miami, mostly for Art Basel, the threat of sea-level rise seems to be getting worse. The locals are taking it more seriously, at least; they see that it’s going to be a big problem. Miami didn’t really change my art – that happened here in New York City. But it will always be a place I care about deep in my heart. 
 
What’s next for you? 
 
At the moment I am taking a break. I had the busiest six months so far of my career, and I feel drained. I needed to step back before coming back in September, which is when the art season officially opens. I will have a show at my gallery. It opens on September 13th at 7pm. I also have a show confirmed for early 2020 and some other projects and installations that I am starting to work on now. 

This article is part of the Climate Art Interviews series. It was originally published in Amy Brady’s “Burning Worlds” newsletter. Subscribe to get Amy’s newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

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Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and Senior Editor of the Chicago Review of Books. Her writing about art, culture, and climate has appeared in the Village Voice, the Los Angeles TimesPacific Standard, the New Republic, and other places. She is also the editor of the monthly newsletter “Burning Worlds,” which explores how artists and writers are thinking about climate change. She holds a PHD in English and is the recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship. Read more of her work at AmyBradyWrites.com and follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.


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