Lily Martine’s Blooms: Molecular Maps and Interior Landscapes
Lily Martine Baxter’s Bloom Series is the main arc of her art since she graduated from RISD but by no means defines all her breadth as an artist. “Blooming” is major theme with many deviations from 30,000 feet to microscopic depths, which she explored from 2006 to 2009, and which bubbles up in later paintings. Her deviations in focus range from portraiture to landscape, from close up to far away, and her brand of abstract art is based more on realism than would first appear.
Some of her newer work references maps and places with a bi-coastal reference. In some paintings she infuses nostalgia and memory, such as the pieces inspired by her feelings for her grandparents. Each painting has a specific reference or starting point, giving it a base in realism.
Lily has been painting for a mere eight years, yet in that time explored and pushed the limits of the genre she was most immersed. Born in Sebastopol, California, and influenced by creative parents, she had a hunger and interest in a broad range of art mediums early on. She earned a BFA in Textile Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in the spring of 2003. Her focus at that time was commercially designing fabrics. At RISD, she was awarded a design contract for a Designtex RISD collaboration. She imagined herself designing reams of designer cloth, with woven intricacies and stretched across commercial or residential landscapes. However, her move to the West Coast and its unique influences changed her ideas about how she wanted to express her art. She found that her aesthetic was geared more toward the four squares of a canvas and not flowing bolts of cloth. She felt drawn to develop a body of work that could depict the microscopic anatomy of a flower and the spirituality of her grandfather.
Each of the paintings is a landscape interior or exterior depending whether map or bloom, while at the same time each is also a live graph of emotion, a demonstration of a place in the mind, an EKG of a memory. Blooms and stems, lines and bubbles, sweeping curves or a coastline, the pieces are thoughtful and thought provoking.
Thursday Afternoon, a 10” x 8” acrylic on canvas still life in pink and green, is simple yet poignant, showing her tendency to begin with a designation, and perhaps a palette, unsure exactly where the journey to her finished painting will take her. Thursday Afternoon is more overtly representational than others, and has great shadows and light with pink and green: an interior landscape in shadow and light. She paints the edges and sides of her canvases, so the view travels around the edges of the work from all sides. The strokes are thick with paint yet transparent for the light and shapes beyond, and seemingly not wanting to be so presentational, a green drip like a cat’s claw finds its way down the table.
Her bloom paintings are not about flowers, but more are evocative of the movement, the dynamism of blooming, implying openness, with a different meaning at .01 nano milliliter than 10,000 feet – the petal of a pink peony versus the map of Long Island.
Bloom Stripe With Brown Details, a 36” x 48” oil on canvas, is a field of “blooms” or remnants of a pathology slide, microscopic detail of a fiber perhaps? A rainbow of colors but muted palette, ecru with pastels, burgundies and warm browns, pink bubbling blooms. The “brown details” are brown lines that provide a level of detail in – or a path through – the shapes and colors. It’s a close up view but not at all static, light moves down and around the circles.
Bloom Stripe With Brown Details
Bloom Drawing No. 3, a 30” x 22” ink, acrylic, gauche and graphite on paper, black, gray and yellow polka dots with one thin red streak running left to right, again, moving the eye around the work, never sitting still. These blooms brought to mind Venus fly traps and predatory flowers but also amoebas, molecules, particles of life making up the “bloom.”
Bloom Drawing No. 3
Some of the paintings contain spiritual or emotional references, and reflect the feeling that the painting gives back to her. For example the memories invoked of her grandparents reflect heart and energy.
J and E Light, a 30: x 40: oil on canvas, she painted in 2009 “was inspired or bubbled up from memories, thoughts and feelings” about her grandparents, warm, balloon like, with definite roots and full, lively colors. There’s a lining of “pearl-like” dots around the edge and all through the roots to give the painting a luminescent quality, alive, happy, and solid.
J and E Light
Jack, a 60” x 48” oil on canvas, named after and inspired by her grandfather, is a very male piece with its blues and browns (and no pink). There is no ignoring the obvious phallic structure of the painting, , save for the palette again of her molecular blooms and the shadow of trees, growth other life in the background, highlighting the life she is choosing to honor here with this monument. After all, many monuments are phallic in nature, Coit Tower in San Francisco, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Washington Monument, and the Eiffel tower in a French sort of way. The painting is almost more of a cultural statement rather than a sexual reference. The palette, the color choice is somewhat retro with suggestions of vintage barkcloth with the moss green background, reaching two generations past, but reflecting a present, now feeling. It’s an evocative and strong painting with a lot of content and emotion.
Long Island, 30” x 40” oil on canvas, is one of Lily’s maps. The shape certainly suggests Long Island, with hints of Jones Beach somewhere between a pink and orange bloom. Here, the mapping expresses emotion through a painting about the place, with a similar muted and pastel like palette relying on brown rather than black for structure and outline.
SFNJ, is her most recent work, in five panels, 18” x 60” each, oil on canvas. Many painters, especially in NY, are painting in series or panels where one canvas relates to the next, like story telling, creating families of paintings. SFNJ is a painting of a journey – one of the map paintings but dynamic in that it illustrates a journey between San Francisco and New Jersey. Lily took this as a commission, with not a defined topic so much as a location stricture, a large entryway, which gave her a large space to work in, and thus, a large canvas. These map works reference a bi coastal abstract, New Jersey and SF Bay, blooms and textures in tangible space but also reflect nostalgic memory of each in a more ethereal place.
Bright oranges outline New Jersey connected to the turquoise waters in between and surrounding San Francisco. The painting, even with its bright yellows and red accents is also muted for the most part, just the flavor of pink pastel and the punch of the red, to move the traveler out of the calmer tones. The panel shape or form is great for this piece, reminiscent of folds in the map, pieces of the territory, each part marking out a stage in the journey, or a chapter in the story.
Lily Martine is an artist in San Francisco’s Mission/Bernal Heights neighborhood, a neighborhood that cultivates creativity, from the neighbor downstairs that just started a fabulous baking company that makes a muffin with a poached egg inside, to cabaret stars like Judy Butterfield who grew up cross the street. The neighborhood is affordable by San Francisco standards, with art spaces propagated in old warehouses, nestled among neighborhood coffee houses and restaurants. Lily’s work can be found at www.lilymartine.com. Sale of her work is being handled by Stephanie Breitbard Fine Art.
Allison A. Davis is a poet, novelist , essayist and lawyer. She has written extensively on San Francisco performance/multimedia art in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. She just finished her first novel and is working on her second. She lives in both San Francisco and New Orleans. You can follow her at @allisondavis531 on Twitter.