Miguel Martinez was born and raised in Taos.
The influence of women underlies all of the artist’s work and it’s not too surprising that his own close-knit family includes two daughters with his wife Rita.
His mother Rose, a powerful matriarch in her own right raised four children (3 sons, 1 daughter). For many years she owned and operated a bookstore on Taos Plaza together with her late son, Reuben. Rose provided her children with a warm and loving home and the strong work ethic she passed on to each of them. Rose passed away earlier this year.
In high school, Martinez (who cites Modigliani as a major influence and is largely self-taught), began to draw and show an interest in art, but continued working with his brother (Larry Martinez) making jewelry, until he began taking a few classes with Taos Six founder, Ray Vinella.
Martinez was already creating the paintings of the faces that have made him famous when R.C. Gorman, the late, great Navajo artist and Taos resident, began encouraging the younger painter and taking an interest in his work.
Gorman also encouraged Michael McCormick to show the talented young artist. McCormick, who has represented Martinez exclusively in Taos for more than thirty years, says that “Miguel has immortalized the South West due to the intrinsic beauty inherent in the faces of his Madonnas.”
Known for the Madonnas he may be, but a visit to the artist’s studio is a education in itself; Martinez paints flora and fauna, landscapes and nudes, along with huge, abstract pieces.
One cannot write about Miguel Martinez without including his wife and partner, Rita. The daughter of a Hispanic mother (from Penasco), and an Irish father, Rita is no doubt the woman behind all of these women. An accomplished artist herself,(working with glass) she is the mother of Miguel’s two daughters, his business partner, most trusted confidante and muse.
Martinez’ Iconic Madonnas have touched people’s lives in a deeply spiritual manner: Many have written to Miguel over the years, with stories of how they have been affected by his pieces.
“I didn’t and don’t start out painting them with that in mind but now, I’m not so sure.” Miguel says.
“People talk about saints and guardians who watch over them and I do believe after hearing so many stories over the years, that there might be something to that. For instance, several years ago we donated an Icon to the chapel in San Luis,Colorado, and so many people have written to tell us of how profoundly she has impacted them.”
Following in a long tradition of the intersection of Art and Religion, Miguel was (one of only three Artists) commissioned by the historic Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedonna, Arizona, to paint one of his icons for inclusion in the Chapel. The Chapel no longer holds Mass, however they did a special Mass to honor his painting.
Our Lady Of Mercy, the Icon made for the Chapel in Sedona (image at the top of this page), is available in a limited edition of enhanced Giclees, available through the McCormick Gallery.
Hanging in the McCormick Gallery right now, are a series of (mostly large-scale) Madonnas veiled in white. A striking departure from the usual backgrounds of landscapes – as if the model is seated, much like the Mona Lisa before a window – or the metal – leaf halos that render their sloe-eyed, romantic faces, Icon-like.
“That series of paintings were done during the winter time, I wanted to try and capture the cold, frozen New Mexico winter, almost like looking through a frozen window.” Miguel told me.
“I have always worked in large scale format,” he explained. “I think my work lends itself to that…I guess if anything, the Madonnas also have become larger paintings.”
“At one time in my career,” he continued, ” they were all oil pastels on paper, now, although I still use pastels, some are large oil paintings on canvas.”
Detractors can write him off as a stylized, illustrative artist, but in reality, Martinez is a masterful painter who has captured the essence of the Zeitgeist; the Universal, Feminine Principle that is making its presence known in every walk of life at this time on the planet, in these serene Madonnas.
Through the Holiday Season if you purchase a Miguel Martinez original from the Michael McCormick Gallery, and mention this post on taoStyle, you will receive a signed poster of a Martinez Madonna as a gift. For more information please visit the Gallery’s site linked below this post.
All images c/o the Michael McCormick Gallery