Motion Commotion: Teton ArtLab resident April Martin is intrigued by movement and science

By on October 18, 2017

Motion intrigues and inspires artist April Martin. But not motion in the traditional sense.

Take a bowl of evaporating salt water. You can’t see it, but over time, crystals form and the substance changes.

“What attracts me are things that are really alive in that constant state of motion,” Martin said. “I like that relationship of time and abstract time.”

Martin’s own work seems to be in a constant state of flux. From fabric to paper to installations and collaborations, it’s sometimes hard for her even to describe where a project starts or ends.

Martin, who is the artist in residence at Teton ArtLab for October, will talk about her work from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight (Oct. 18).

Martin is focusing on fabric work during her time in Jackson, a practical decision because of its portability compared to some of the varied materials—like limestone blocks—she’s worked with recently.

So far, Martin has spent much of her time in JH focused on three projects. One is a quilt she’s creating with 12 friends as part of an international quilt exchange, where each creates blocks for the other.

“A lot of what I do is inspired by friends and family and really personal,” Martin said. “I really do try to bring art and life together.”

Martin is using the project to also explore light, leaving finished blocks hanging in windows to bleach in the sun and flatten the colors.

Martin has also used the her time at the ArtLab to think about her life in the past few years—which has included a whirlwind of residencies and travels for projects since she graduated from art school in Chicago in 2016.

She’s currently trying to map all the different beds she’s slept in during the last year and a half, using fabric and paper she’s cutting and collaging. She’s unsure of how big the piece will be when finished, but knows it will be a textile work designed to hang on a gallery wall.

The unpredictability of each project is what she loves about making art.

“I get to remake the rules every time,” she said.

Her third project is a map she’s designing specifically for gallery in Chicago. She plans to dye freezer paper with the green patina from copper, which will complement the gallery floor, which is white and green.

“I often react to site,” she said. “I wouldn’t say my work is site specific, but there is a conversation between the windows behind it and the floor it’s resting on. That’s exciting to me and it keeps it alive.”

Martin grew up in Ontario, Canada in an artistic household, and was the youngest in a family of four. Her mother painted watercolors and worked as a textile artist. Creativity was encouraged in the house and Martin was crafty, although she had a sister who could draw well and was the better renderer in the family, Martin said.

Martin didn’t plan to study or make a career out of art. She studied international development and women’s studies, earning a double major in international development and humanistic studies at McGill University in Montreal, but quickly realized how important art was to her.

Following her initial studies, Martin chose to expand her education, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal and an MFA in sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the years after McGill.

“I don’t know when I realized I could touch and play with everything and make art,” she said. But at some point it dawned on her and art became a more obvious path.

Today, the multimedia artist is most interested in collaborations and site-specific installations. She also loves to think about science. She was working on a project collecting berries, and then stringing them together. She watched the berries dry and thought about their life span and how the forms changed and what happened.

But her art isn’t meant to educate people about science, she said. Science inspires her work. Her next project might stem from her time in Jackson. She’s particularly interested in the hot springs and thermal features in Yellowstone National Park.

“They are actually alive,” she said. “That is so beautiful to me. I don’t really what to do with it, but I find it exciting.” PJH

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