KENNESAW, Ga. | Jan 6, 2020
Contemporary artist is exhibiting across the country
To the artist April Marten, communication and creative expression are not cut-and-dried notions, but fluid ideas that humans can explore, create and imitate. Marten uses these ideas to question the world around her through art.
Marten, who earned a BFA in Drawing and Painting at Kennesaw State University’s School of Art and Design in 2012, is making waves in the art community with her work, which was recently exhibited in New York.
Marten’s work has been on display nationally, from KSU’s Zuckerman Museum of Art to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, NYC’s Foley Gallery to Charlotte, N.C.’s Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. As artist-in-residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in North Carolina, she displayed a limited edition of her project Frances Wasn’t a Saint.
The cards fell into place for Marten when well-known art dealer Monica King visited her exhibition at McColl and purchased one of the prints for her private collection. “She reached out and began conceiving of an exhibition around this entire series of work,” said Marten, offering a solo exhibition as the inaugural show for King’s new gallery opening in Tribeca, N.Y., this past September.
“At first, it was intimidating,” Marten said, “the thought of filling an entire NYC gallery with work that was so important to me personally and to incorporate live performance using my own body.” She pushed past the intimidation with King’s guidance and now says, “to show work on such a spectacular stage is one thing, but to be represented by a gallerist who is interested in nurturing an emerging artist’s career is like winning the golden ticket!”
Frances Wasn’t a Saint explores the female identity and the societal and power structures, which according to Marten, society allows to shape it. Using multiple mediums, including still images, multimedia sculptural installations, video and live performance, Marten created a figure named Frances, a representation of women, “an ambiguous female figure who lived, a grandmother I couldn’t really know, but who is talking to me and through me now,” Marten said.
Frances began as a personal inquiry through private performance, where Marten explored and confronted the “historically problematic male gaze via the lens of the camera,” she said. “I was thinking of the #MeToo movement and the ever-increasing cry of women to confront gender-based violence and predatory behavior head-on.”
Born in 1969 in Miami, Marten grew up in a family deeply tied to a fundamentalist Christian group. Artistic expression and critical thought were considered threats to this community’s foundations, and Marten’s early inclinations towards art and creativity were thoroughly suppressed. “It took ten years of my adult life to make the break and finally pursue my intellectual curiosity,” Marten said.
In this pursuit, she decided to move to Atlanta for a fresh start and sought an educational institution that allowed her to delve into multiple research topics.
“I was interested in art as a vehicle for social dialogue,” said Marten. “KSU’s interdisciplinary studies department seemed like a good fit as a place where I could combine my research interests.”
After a couple of years at KSU, with the assistance of academic advisors, Marten decided to focus her studies on art. After graduating with her BFA, she began creating and researching and started her career through her exhibitions and residencies, mainly in North Carolina.
Given her interest in interdisciplinary creative research, Marten started seeking MFA programs in 2016 that offered funding and support for multidisciplinary practices. With recommendations from mentors, Marten ultimately decided on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and their Time-Based Art program, focusing on a contemporary arts studio practice and the development of creative strategies that utilize interdisciplinary approaches.
Marten continues to research and delve into the human condition through art. She has explored areas such as religious histories, gender-based violence, ritual, excess and consumption. “All of these come under the umbrella of questioning the function of ecstasy and whose happiness matters,” Marten said. “The subjects I explore, at times, feel dark and heavy, so I infuse the work with layers of humor and meditative relief, employing magical realism.”
Her most recent, and current favorite, project is an installation entitled Dinner of White Desire (2019) recently exhibited at Goodyear Arts in Charlotte. It is a unique piece, displaying an unusual dinner spread consisting of mismatched food such as cauliflower, white jellybeans, and uncooked lima beans. A recipe card and shopping list are included, giving not only instructions for preparing the food, but setting the entire room, including putting sugar on the floor. The intention of the piece is interactive, having gallery visitors sit at the table and experience “sipping” the duck egg tea from simple white teacups, all while leaving their mark via footprints in the sugar. A single sentence about the installation is given for description: “I fear we are growing increasingly intolerant to what remains after ecstasy.”
To see a catalog of Marten’s professional work and more information about what inspires her, please visit aprilmarten.com.
Photos by April Marten
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.