Deborah Martin (b. Boston 1961) has established a compelling dominion as portraitist of an archaic America. A site-specific artist, her work eulogizes the abandoned habitats and domestic landscapes of small town America. While Martin has been compared to Truro’s Edward Hopper and Maine’s Andrew Wyeth, her brushwork has an open, flowing spontaneity; still, her subject has much in common with painters whose melding of landscape and structure offer a template for isolation and separation.
Much of her practice emerges in collaborative conversation with writers and video artists, and takes form through exhibitions, installations and publications. She is recognized for several pivotal bodies of work: Narrow Lands (Provincetown, MA), Home on the Strange: In Search of the Salton Sea (Salton Sea, CA), Back of Beyond (Wonder Valley, CA) and America (U.S.).
Currently, Martin is documenting the unincorporated town of Wonder Valley located in Southern California's Mojave desert. In this 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.
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 slated to become part of the PAAM permanent collection.
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