Thursday, December 13, 2012

Layers of Artwork & Identity: Bobby C. Martin

Author: Cierra Linander (OVAC Intern)
Bobby C. Martin, Homecoming Royalty, Oil on canvas, 24x24"
Tahlequah artist Bobby C. Martin’s piece for the upcoming Concept/OK exhibition, Homecoming Royalty, layers images and icons related to his identity as a self-defined mixed-blood native artist from Oklahoma to define his unique experience of Native American culture.

Although he borrows photos primarily from his family’s collection, viewers across cultures of often identify with the Martin’s artworks, which bring to mind shared memories and experiences of events past and present.

CL: What inspired the creation of your Concept/OK piece?
BCM: This piece is about cultural identity from my viewpoint as a mixed-blood native person living in Oklahoma today. In this piece, and indeed much of my artwork, many layers of identity merge in an attempt to define a personal and cultural history. The list of names and numbers taken from census rolls (the infamous Dawes Rolls) are one layer of identity; the image itself is another layer; and the subject matter of the piece itself, with its potential for political "incorrectness" is yet another layer.

The photo that inspired this piece was from my mother's collection of photos from her time at an Indian Training school in Lawrence, Kansas. This photo dates from c. 1952-53 and is a shot of the football homecoming king and queen. No one can remember who the couple was in the shot. I'm kind of hoping someone sees the couple and recognizes them, which has happened in my works before.

CL: What particular process do you employ to execute your works?
BCM: What is never consistent is the process or media I use to create my art. I am primarily a printmaker, and have long been interested in layering—whether in content, materials or techniques. My process often begins with a layered digital image manipulated in Photoshop, where I take a scan of old photo and add other bits and pieces of text, textures, etc. From there it can go anywhere—oil on canvas, collage on paper, monotype, mixed media print.

CL: What do you hope viewers take away from your art?
BCM: Even though I use mostly photos from my own family's collection (who happen be Native American), I have found an almost universal response from viewers across cultures, ethnicities and languages that has made me realize how the common bond of family and collective memory contained in these photographs can have a profound effect. I also often combine words in the form of historic Indian census rolls, snippets of Christian hymns in the Muscogee language (my tribe) and passages from the Bible to inject additional layers of meaning into my works.

So my hope is that viewers can find a stirred memory or identify with their own family history in my work—and in turn reflect on their own family and identity.

The Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma exhibition opens December 16, 1-5 pm at the new Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council’s Hardesty Arts Center. See for more information. 

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