"I will often start with a poem in mind," said Martins, who works in a basement studio at her North Canton home.
CANTON There's a distinct duality within "Earth Sky Sea," the solo exhibition by Robyn Martins that opens Thursday at downtown's Lynda Tuttle Art Center.
There are Martin's paintings, some abstract and others ambiguously representational, rendered in muted colors that visually engage while conveying a sense of calm reflection.
And then there are her many found-object assemblages, wooden boxes artfully filled with intriguing, textural relics of the past that tell fragments of stories.
What unites the work in this engaging show is poetry. Many of Martins' creations are inspired by actual poems from Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Carl Sandburg, Shakespeare and Goethe.
"I will often start with a poem in mind," said Martins, who works in a basement studio at her North Canton home. A painting that depicts a river with a road running alongside was inspired by Whitman's poem that includes, "Aloof and lighthearted, I take to the open road."
"I'm informed by the nature of the poem," she said about her paintings. "Sometimes I scratch text right into the painting. It's not always legible, but I know it's there."
Her shadow boxes, which juxtapose a visually rich collection of vintage elements, also have a poetry element to them. Lines from poems on paper are included in the compositions, with the entire poem affixed to the back of the box.
"Once more, I am a wanderer, a pilgrim, through the world," from a poem by Goethe, is the theme of a wooden cheese box where the contents include pieces of driftwood, a miniature clay pitcher, a door latch, a drawer pull, a miniature lantern and a period rural scene.
For her paintings, Martins uses oil paint mixed with cold wax, a blend of beeswax, resin and odorless mineral spirits. This gives the paint body and texture, and allows for layering. As for colors, "I try to mute them. I don't like bright colors, I don't wear bright colors. I prefer earth tones," she said. Pointing to a painting she said, "That purple is about as bright as I go."
Considering the sophistication and uniting style of her paintings, it might surprise some people to learn that Martins has only been painting for about a year. She is no newcomer to visual arts, however. For 20 years she was senior graphic designer for Barbour Publishing in Uhrichsville, where she designed book covers and promotional materials.
"That's where I honed my skills in color and composition," Martins said. "I draw a straight line from my time as a graphic designer to now being a painter and assemblage artist."
Lynda Tuttle, who is hosting Martins' a solo show at her gallery, said, "I've watched her through this whole journey into painting. It's fascinating to watch what is coming out of her. She's definitely a raw talent, definitely a disciplined talent."
"I paint every day," said Martins. Her paintings in the show range from $38 for small original works on paper, with works on wood panels from $85 to $525.
Her assemblages are housed in hinged boxes, printers trays, drawers and other old wooden containers found at flea markets and antique shops. Inside are old photographs, antique postcards, pieces of jewelry, clay marbles, feathers, birds nests, old pens, dried rose petals, and bundles cut from books.
One particularly impressive creation is a curved drawer from a sewing machine. Its contents include a leather case for a camera lens, vintage eyeglasses, a handwritten letter, photographs, a bird-shaped salt shaker, a wild turkey feather and a working, battery-driven clock face. This one is $125; prices for the boxes start at $35, with most under $100.
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