Angelo Ray Martinez, 35, of Champaign a third-year master's of fine arts degree candidate at the University of Illinois, recently chatted with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli.
So you were born in Boulder, Colo.?
I was. I grew up in Longmont. I lived in Denver for 10 years or so, and that's where I received my undergraduate degree in painting at the University of Colorado and where I met my wife, Melonie Mulkey, who's also an artist.
What are you up to right now?
I'm preparing for my MFA thesis exhibit, which will open April 9 at Krannert Art Museum. In the MFA program, we make work that caters more to galleries and museums, where there's a certain type of discourse that becomes theoretical.
So it was fun to do the recent Lightbox installation at Weiskamp Screen Printing. Race, gender and class have always been issues in my work, but with my Lightbox installation, "Rubberneck," I was trying to make it a little more accessible to nontraditional art audiences. I was trying to highlight humor and play, which was really helpful because I've been wanting to incorporate some of those ideas into my thesis work.
When I walked into your studio, I thought of Andy Warhol and other pop artists.
There's a lot of pop references in my work, and this duplicity happens as well. With this body of work, my main idea has to do with varying forms of representation — not what is represented and how it is represented. I reference a lot of tattoo culture and video game culture and the history of painting.
How and when did you get into art?
I got into it when I was a kid. I won my first art contest when I was in first grade. My family always supported me as an artist. I didn't plan to go into academia. I was planning to become a tattoo artist.
I started taking Drawing 1 and painting courses at the community college in Denver and had this very inspirational teacher, Charles Parson, who really demystified the art world, which seemed inaccessible to me at the time. I decided after that I did want to pursue a higher-education degree in art, and it hasn't stopped.
What do you want to do after you graduate this spring?
I want to pursue teaching so I'm looking for adjunct teaching positions and hopefully, a full-time position at a university. I'll continue to exhibit my work and eventually pursue gallery representation.
Did you ever work as a tattoo artist?
I never actually did tattoo work. But I designed a lot of tattoos. I was pursuing an apprenticeship at the time. Now I tattoo, using a tattoo machine, needles and ink, a lot of inanimate objects in my artwork.
Do you draw a lot too?
I do mostly painting. I sketch in my sketchbook but that's more preliminary ideas. This past weekend, I was part of 8 to CREATE at Colab in Urbana. It's a new event. Eight artists made drawings on site. But because I primarily paint, I painted with black and white paint on the walls in the Sipyard next door. I was trying to respect the black-and-white media of drawing.
I actually worked as a commercial house painter in Colorado before I moved here and for a couple of summers here too. I think the way I paint, mixing my paints in large buckets, for example, comes from a more commercial house painter perspective.
The School of Art + Design Master of Fine Arts show will be April 8-23 at Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, C, with the public opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. April 9.