Deborah Martin (b. Boston 1961) is a contemporary American realist painter. Martin’s work often utilizes specific sites as a form of psychological excavation. Her poignant images offer a hauntingly intimate elegy for small town American roadsides.
Much of her practice emerges in collaborative conversation with writers and poets, taking form through exhibitions and publications. She is recognized for several pivotal bodies of work: Home on the Strange: In Search of the Salton Sea (Salton Sea, CA), Narrow Lands (Provincetown, MA) and America (US.)
Martin's paintings and Polaroid's appear as illustrations in Home on the Strange: In Search of the Salton Sea written by Amy Sather Smith (2009.) Paintings from the Narrow Lands series are featured as illustrations in Building Provincetown (2015), written, photographed and edited by New York Times Reporter, David Dunlap.
Currently, Martin is documenting small towns located in remote areas of the desert where the arid landscape is both vast and unpredictable. In the body of work titled Back of Beyond, Martin immortalizes a 21st century desert struggle against destruction. The publication based on this series of paintings is a collaborative effort between Martin and the Los Angeles Poet Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut.
In her new series The Slabs: The Last Free Place in America, painter Deborah Martin turns her attention on the community of Slab City located outside of Niland CA on the Salton Sea. Slab City takes its name from the concrete slabs that remain from the abandoned World War II Marine barracks of Camp Dunlap. The site is both decommissioned and uncontrolled, home to year round slabbers and snowbirds in the winter months.
Martin is a recipient of the 2011 Orlowsky Freed Foundation Grant sponsored in part by the Lilian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation Grant and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM). Her work is included in PAAM's permanent collection and has appeared in numerous publications including art ltd., Palm Springs Life, Angeleno Magazine, Blue Canvas, Provincetown Arts, and New American Paintings Magazine.
Martin received her BFA and BS Masters of Arts in Teaching, Art Education from The Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University.
"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” photography."
-Peter Frank, 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
"...Deborah is a force of nature to be reckoned with, and a hell of a painter."
--Ted Quinn. Z 107.7 FM , Joshua Tree
"Martin’s noirish 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