Art Writer : Roberta Carasso for The Bakersfield Museum of Art , 2015

Artist : Pamela Diaz Martinez

Several years ago, Pamela Diaz Martinez created symbolic landscapes and portraits in oil paint on canvas and then on leather. At that time, she portrayed the constant human pull between the physical and the spiritual. She called these Palindromes, like a word that is the same whether read forwards or backwards; meaning: that no matter how a person sees him or herself, there is always the indecipherable tug of the body and the soul, pulling in both directions. Of great concern to Martinez was to find ways to express, through art, the theological and the secular, the invisible in the visible world. Perseverance, contemplation, and profound exploration led Martinez to deepen ways to express and expand the idea of Palindrome.

At the Bakersfield Museum of Art her current drawings reveal the results of that search –depictions of intense weather patterns created by her method of using marks by erasure. Following this current pathway, Martinez portrays the presence of the formless yet real, Holy Spirit, the immutable in our everyday surroundings.

At first glance Martinez’ images are a vertical landscape format of a ground and sky. All the drawings have a floating form that are either contained or expand beyond the borders of the sky. These consistent forms were inspired by weather, in particular: the sand storms of Arizona (where she grew up) and the tornados of the south. Each drawing is meant to illustrate the literal power of a storm hovering over the earth. In the history of the last century, artists have taken the literal and transformed it into the abstract. In her drawings, Martinez reverses the process and takes the abstract, such as the Holy Spirit, and depicts it literally.

To capture the affect, when the reality of the Holy Spirit is impossible to convey with concrete media -- such as paint that dries and adheres to a surface -- Martinez chooses not only to render a drawing with a drawing implement, but spend much of the creative process erasing the art. Erasing a drawing is what is called reductive drawing. Traditionally, drawings are rendered by an additive process as material is placed on a blank ground. But Martinez’ art is at first additive and then mostly subtractive, as she removes much of the medium that had been placed on the surface. For her, the subtractive method is the most synonymous way to convey the permanent yet invisible, Holy Spirit. Not relying on traditional tools, she is forced to pay more attention to the pressure of the mark and to the subtle movements of her hand; and, of course, to the results.

Martinez works on Duralar. Duralar is a cutting-edge surface, the latest in industrial coated technology. It acts and reacts in ways paper cannot. It does not tear, is semi-transparent, and for Martinez’s drawings, Duralar allows light to pass through the surface. Working at times on the floor, at her desk, or even by placing a drawing on a wall, Martinez begins her magic.

With a cotton ball, and sometimes a goat’s hair brush, Martinez applies to the Duralar surface Pan Pastels, an art medium that comes in cake format, in a variety of colors. Her gestures are contemplative as a gentle hand meticulously builds the varied dusty pastel surface. Small intimate labor-intensive strokes begin to form, linear pastel marks that represent the power of the Holy Spirit.  Martinez orchestrates the drawing with pastel marks, and erasures, going back and forth building the image. Her subtractive process comes about using from 15 to 20 different shaped erasers, from a tiny vinyl Japanese eraser to a traditional kneaded eraser. She removes pastel marks and increasingly makes the surface rich with linear strokes.

At the end of the process, pastels are traditionally sprayed with fixative to ensure that they adhere to the surface. To retain the intimate nature of the Holy Spirit, Martinez takes a challenging artistic risk, and does not spray the drawing. Rather, she leaves the surface vulnerable to weather and to anyone’s touch. In this way, Martinez seeks to portray artistically how the Holy Spirit occupies space, whether seen or not. Thus, Martinez addresses the subject of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity in Christian theology.

Martinez grew up in Arizona and received a BS in Education from Northern Arizona University and an MFA from Arizona State University. She found that many of her professors encouraged purely conceptual expression, while others were interested in formal representation. Her broad artistic background and her religious transformation led to the work she creates now. Martinez has taught art classes at Saddleback College and high school, preparing teenagers for the demands of an art curriculum in college. Martinez has had solo exhibitions at: BC Space, Laguna Beach, CA; the Latino Art Inc. Milwaukee WI; and the Latino Museum in Pomona, CA. Recently her drawings were included in a figurative drawing show at Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA. Martinez is dedicated to creating art when she is not teaching.

Lastly, Martinez would like viewers to revisit the concept of the Holy Spirit with an open mind while abandoning preconceived notions about this famous religious concept and icon traditionally taking several forms, one of them being the dove.