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Deborah Martin
Kobalt Gallery
366 Commercial St., Provincetown, MA 02657
July 19, 2013 - July 30, 2013

Deborah Martin Review

"Deborah Martin is blessed with a technique that allows her to portray space and the things in it with a quavering, almost feverish luminosity as she trains her eye on all forms of the American outback.


Martin is probably best known for her paintings of the blasted communities that surround the Salton Sea. But she paints other parts of the California desert as well, and has also painted the rural American south, the nether parts of Cape Cod, and other places in this country where society dissolves and individuals find solitude whether or not they seek it.


What interests Martin – whose pictures are full of human presence but devoid of humans – is not the mundane or the abject, but how habitation seems only to amplify the emptiness of the land itself. In this respect she extends Edward Hopper’s lonely realms into the context of “new topographic”


-Peter Frank Fabrik Magazine, Los Angeles



Deborah Martin's starkly rendered yet emotionally evocative paintings convey something of the hardscrabble pride in the townspeople's souls....


--Shana Nys Dambrot, Los Angeles


 Martin’s nourish and oddly poignant images offer a hauntingly intimate elegy for small town American roadsides, refracted through a grim cataract of muffled sunlight, dusty colors, and bleached, exhausted exposures. Her vacant neighborhoods suggest a peaceful, bucolic apocalypse in which human abandonment is perhaps as much blessing as curse.


Her work dwells within a compositional formality – a visitor’s sidewalk stance that captures the essentially public vista of driveway, yard, front porch – yet her portraitist’s eye conjures an emotional complexity nearly operatic in scope: within the silent, vacant architecture, human drama seems to exist more powerfully in allusion.



--Quintan Ana Wikswo, Los Angeles




"...Deborah is a force of nature to be reckoned with, and a hell of a painter."


--Ted Quinn. Z 107.7 FM , Joshua Tree




It seems to me that Home is a lot like Love. No amount of poetry, music, art, life, death, or disappointment will ever suffice to complete the catalog of its permutated meanings—which won’t stop anyone from trying. It literally means something absolutely different to each living creature, and without ideas like Home, Love, and even God, there’d be no paintings, no pop music, and no novels.


Home, again like Love, is an emotion as well as a social construct, a place to leave, return to, miss, defend, dream of, or destroy. It’s a place of specificity, but does it even have to be a place at all? It can be a person (parent, lover, pet) or an illusion, or a karmic goal-post that keeps moving. It’s often aspirational, symbolizing achievement, security, and retreat.


But even with the endless catalog of definition, prayer, fixation, metaphor, image, symbol, myth, purchase, and confession, human nature will endlessly prompt us to add to the archive. For every poet and painter—and for that matter every living person—believes themselves capable of shedding new light and adding new insight to our soul-situation. And they are right.


The residents of the settlements flanking California’s Salton Sea—an artificial lake intended as a desert oasis resort that quickly became a toxic, calcified symbol of catastrophe—think they live in an Earthly Paradise. They are proud to call it Home, and are busy making improvements, landscaping, and building baseball parks. It’s a salt-flat with dilapidated, sagging structures lining empty streets, paint peeling away in the sun, devoid of apparent activity. Its

short, blacktop roads all lead to a lakeshore, the sandy beaches of which are littered with sunken vehicles and the skeletons of four-eyed fish. And as for front lawns, well, you can’t grow plastic grass...


Martin’s work is a kind of interpretative documentation; she stays true to the reality of her selected places. In addition to the Salton Sea sequel, she’s currently at work on a series about Cape Cod’s Narrowlands—a more vegetated but no less remote “vacation” destination less about the desert and more about vines, nature’s reclaiming of the cultivated, the process of decay, and the beauty in the breakdown.


--Shana Nys Dambrot, Los Angeles






Martin’s realist paintings are inspired by the abandoned habitats and domestic landscapes of the California desert. In documenting the detritus of the human presence in the desert, Martin coaxes an unexpected beauty from these buildings, automobiles, and random scraps of people’s lives.


Together these objects tell a story of the human need to carve a home out of their sometimes inhospitable surrounding environment. Her paintings depict the hope of a simpler life that has gone awry in the open air of the desert; warm sunsets cast a gleaming desert light on the landscapes - giving its contents a peaceful final resting place.


This is not to say the paintings feel uninviting; they have a sense of comfort and freedom within them. The soft focus of the artist’s painting style coupled with the de-saturated color pallet (both inspired by Polaroid photography) give a weathered nostalgic feel to the works.



--Tressa Williams, Director George Billis Gallery / Los Angeles




Posted by Kobalt Gallery on 7/5/13

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