Gallery Talk
Ned Martin

I sat next to an old man on a bench at a picnic table. We watched as kids ran around and played and laughed. I don’t remember who the old man was, nor do I remember the exact question I asked of him but I can tell you it came from an inquisitive 7 year old mind and I was dead serious in the asking.

My question started with, “Why does…”

The old man looked down at me. “Because Y is a crooked letter,” he answered. I really did not like that answer. I didn’t like it then and as many years have passed from that day, I still don’t like it. Although over time, I have learned to embrace the idea that not all whys and hows belong to us.

That concept certainly has its place in the world of art and the creative process.  You can’t use a measuring tape or calipers to measure creativity. I know there are a lot of studies out there today designed to understand the brain and neuro-pathways but I promise you, even in today’s times, science versus understanding the whys and hows of the creative process are miles and miles apart. Creative logic is an oxymoron.

So, why and how does the creative process work? What we do know with all certainty is that we don’t know. Why do we get our best ideas in the shower? We really don’t know why. But it has to do with not using that linear side of your brain and tapping into the emotional side.

The good news is we can use the creative process even though we don’t know how it works. I don’t know how electricity works, but I can plug my iphone in a wall socket and get results. The creative process is the same. How does it work? Don’t know. But, I plug in and get results.

An important thing to remember is the creative process is a skill set. That is, the more we use it correctly, the better we get at it. I know because I have been employing the creative process all my life. I can go there very quickly and get results.

I began drawing and painting from childhood. Art was the one thing I was good at so rewards beget devotion. Devotion beget skills. And then passion snuck up on me like the girl in your math class you never noticed and suddenly you are madly in love and can’t live without her for the rest of your life. When I was no longer in control –when I had to follow my passion- I became an artist.

I was born in Pennsylvania, spent most of my Life in Northern Maryland (almost at the border of PA), moved to NY,  then about 5 years ago met my wife, Renee and in time came full circle by spending half of my time in New York and half my time in PA. So I felt at home here in this rural setting and I spent many hours walking in the local fields and woods searching for paintings. My creative process was about finding light and textures, color and mood. I not only fell in love with Renee and her family but also the community of people and the land itself. There was, I thought, an endless wealth of inspiration here in Pennsylvania, an endless supply of paintings that begged to be produced.

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Then, on February 17, of last year Renee and I were grooming our horses, not far from here, on the Eck family farm in the Nippenose Valley. She was holding both ropes as I brushed. The horses spooked, one rope let go, the other formed a tangle and she was dragged and hit a tree. When the paramedics arrived, I backed away to let them do their job, crossed the field to put the horses back into their stalls then began to walk back across the corn field toward the ambulance.

What happened at that moment is very difficult to put into words. Months went by before I could process any of it. After time, I realized that her heart stopped beating as they were putting her into the ambulance. At that instant an intense energy engulfed me and took me to a place of profound beauty and light and love. I think sometimes that she was trying to take me with her and they told her that was not a good idea so she let go and I came back.

From that time on, I simply do not see things in the same way. My creative process is completely different. Now paintings come to me from within and present themselves as hungry children vying for attention. And there are so many I fret in my ability to proliferate. The outward search for paintings has ceased. But, when I do attempt to look outward the image is scrambled. I try to make sense of the simplest of things but, my reality is like a bad signal.

There was a period of time following my Renee’s death when I simply could not paint. Painting realism was an expression of my reality and my reality was something I wanted to run and hide from. Then, the sultry mistress of abstract painting wooed me with false promises. She convinced me I could paint again and it could be just mechanical, no feelings, no emotions. And in my emotionally drunken state I strayed. Oh, but that vixen had lied to me.

Unlike realism, abstraction has very few boundaries. Within a world of painting nothing, you are simultaneously painting everything. I had been pulled from the relatively safe haven of realism where there are parameters set, where emotional hand holding abounds. In realism, with its inherent use of subject matter, light, textures, mood… the viewer is guided to feel and react; certain emotional buttons are pushed, others are eliminated.

When I began painting within the abstract genre, I found I could indeed feel nothing but I could also feel everything and anything . The more I resisted feeling, the more entangled I became in my own emotions. I thrashed around and struggled – got myself into a frayed ball of knots- bound tight in my own fears and sadness.   

"But it’s not as simple as that. The process transmutes through time."

Finally, I accepted that my emotions were the very raw fuel of creativity itself.

Now I know the pain, the joy, the laughter and tears are extremely powerful gifts. And to refute those emotions would be a bigger tragedy still. When I summon enough courage to express my emotions with paint, it has the power to transport me to the far reaches of this universe.  And most importantly to me, when I embrace and use my emotions in my creative process, I honor my Renee. So, I feel. So, I paint.

Someone recently asked me in an interview if there was a message that I wanted people to walk away with from this show. I replied that normally I would not answer that question because I have always believed interpretation belongs solely to the viewer. Who am I then to tell you how you should feel or what you should think about my artwork.

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However, these are not normal times. So I feel compelled to verbalize that first, I am aware of this exhibit’s morose side. Death is at its core.
Yet ,I beg you to see- for If you look more closely,

the exhibit is about a journey and how it affects the creative process. This exhibit is conveniently divided-- before, the video and after.  But it’s not as simple as that. The process transmutes through time. For example, when the anniversary of Renee’s

death came around this year, I asked my sons and daughter in-laws to be with me. I was explaining to my son, Scott that I needed them – I wanted to share the day with Ned and Taylor and him and Greer and not be alone- I wanted – I needed—I,I,I…me,me,me...

He interrupted and said, “Well Dad, you are not the only one who lost Renee”. Profoundly true. It didn’t feel that way up to that point. Grief and sadness are myopic. But I know many lost Renee on all kinds of levels. And we all lose people who were near and dear to us. A loss changes us. And as an artist, it can change the creative process. I so hope that you walk away from this exhibit with a new perspective of how we all move on, because we have no other choice. The other side of the message here is one of beauty, hope, adoration and love. 

I want to close with an announcement because I can not think of a better example of moving on than new Life itself. I am extremely happy to announce today that Scott and Greer are going to have a baby. A new life is coming into this world in December.

If there is one thing Renee loved more than dogs, cats, horses and critters—it was babies.

 So the next time you hear thunder, the next time you witness a rumbling in the sky I want you all to know everything is ok. It’s just Renee jumping up and down up there with sheer joy over her first Grandchild.