When Mill Valley photographer Deborah Martin seeks inspiration, she regularly turns to a venue not normally known for its artistic merits: construction sites.
Martin, who opens her Ashford Court studio this weekend as part of Marin Open Studios, finds and manipulates corroded surfaces to create abstract works that command attention. Her sources come from wood, metal, peeled paint, graffiti and faded concrete – all elements you’ll find at construction sites.
We chatted with the Marin native and San Francisco Academy of Art grad about her art, what drew her to it and why she lives and works in Mill Valley.
Mill Valley Patch: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you gravitate to fine arts photography?
Deborah Martin: Art has always been in my life, whether it was training for ballet, ice skating, singing or drawing. It all was a form of artistic expression. After a string of non-creative jobs, I went to college. I started out as an Illustration major which then lead me to study film. I decided not to venture to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film, so I ended up dabbling in photography. I incorporated my illustrative background that I had to abandon due to sensitivities to solvents into finding subject matter where I could combine my artistry and filmmaking skills with a still camera and the use of digital illustration.
MVP: Describe your style. If you bumped into someone who asked you about your work and they didn't have the benefit of seeing it for themselves at that moment, how would you explain what you do?
DM: My style is a blend of finding abandoned or decayed buildings, man-made materials with natural elements, all of which I see as microcosms. I elaborate on its beauty or creating/morphing something into something else.
People often think the images are paintings. Sometimes I will layer photographs that become stories that I weave by using abstraction, historical tribal figures as well as photographing clients for commissioned pieces. Theatrical scenes from Asian cinema have also influenced my art. I work intuitively to make evocatively visceral images. My intentions are to make work that will bring my audience to find their own imagination and stories.
MVP: What else are you interested in terms of hobbies?
DM: I love to hunt for unique places to explore and travel, as well as fashion, hiking and movies.
MVP: Married? Kids?
MVP: That’s exciting. What drew you to Mill Valley?
DM: Mill Valley is a beautiful place to live. If you don’t like the heat, the fog is always a nice security blanket. Can’t beat the wonderful hikes, trails, the beach. For the most part it’s nice and quiet despite the !
MVP: If you could change one thing about Mill Valley, what would it be?
DM: Bringing Mill Valley back to the way it used to be when there were lots of artists and the cost of living was more affordable. The Image Flow and O’Hanlon Art Center have both been instrumental in giving artists opportunities to develop and display their art in modern Mill Valley.
MVP: Tell me one thing about yourself that might surprise people.
DM: I have an unpublished book chronicling my most colorful past dating experiences. I can just say that it took a book full of dating in order for me to find Mr. Right!
Click here for a full interactive map of all the Marin Open Studios this weekend.