Featured Artist | Kristen Martincic
Kristen Martincic’s swimsuits represent an incredible combination of printmaking, fibers, and clothing design. Conceptual insight and meticulous craftsmanship, both expressed to the utmost degree in this series, are fortes of the artist, an MFA with numerous accolades and exhibitions to her name, currently residing in Columbia, Missouri. Martincic answered a few questions for us this week, to accompany the online presentation of the May Exhibit at sagerbraudisgallery.com and Artsy.
HANNAH REEVES: Can you take us back to the beginning of your visual investigations surrounding swimming, and talk about how you got started on this line of thinking?
KRISTEN MARTINCIC: Back in 2009 I made an installation called “night swimming” that used a translucent blue nylon to create a pool space poised above water for the viewer to walk in & around. I grew up swimming and that piece was really about tapping into memories and the experience of swimming at dark. It was my first piece about water and it opened up everything for me. My first paper bathing suits actually came a couple years before that but those were closer to an older body of work about protection & exposure that used under garments as a stand in for the figure. It took me a couple years to really process the “night swimming” installation & those early bathing suits and I ended up making a lot of work that either got tossed or remade. After that I felt like I found my way with ideas & imagery of water & swimming that have continued into my recent works.
HR: Your craftsmanship and mastery over materials is remarkable, throughout your work. What leads an artist like you to such a level? Are there a lot of practice-suits out there that didn’t make it to exhibit, or is there something about how you go about each piece that keeps your output perfected?
KM: I think it’s a combination of temperament & A LOT of practice. Much of my work in graduate school involved sewing various Eastern papers—large scale installation, small dimensional works, paper garments, “fat” prints. I had a really immersive grad school experience and was around all these wonderful artists who were making & experimenting. We all pushed idea & material alongside each other. That time was so pivotal & laid the foundation for how I approach my work now. Each series or project offers new insights into material & ideas and in that way I am always learning. I know to stay open, to listen the materials & then respond.
All that said it comes back to temperament. I plot; I am meticulous; I have a lot of patience & sensitivity to materials. And yes, there have been lots of practice suits in the past.
When it comes to the actual making of my paper bathing suits, it takes a lot of steps but they all begin with a detailed sketch & plan. After that, I make a full-sized pattern and then use that pattern to cut the bathing suit shape out of handmade Japanese papers. Then I print several layers of color ink to the shaped paper and do the detailed linear work. There is a lot of testing along the way with color, layering, line, stitching on small pieces of paper before & while working on to the actual paper suit. At the end, I sew the front & back together, turn them right side out, and finish the edges.
HR: What is the relationship between the body -or maybe more specifically the female perception of body- and your suits?
KM: I think swimwear reflects our shifting attitudes towards our bodies while talking about various vulnerabilities. They are the “uniform” we wear when we are in or around water. So it’s that context that I’m really interested in. And how this proximity to water lets us be relatively comfortable wearing nothing more substantial than our underwear in public. For me, my paper bathing suits are about that space between protection & exposure, skin & clothing. I think my suits also touch on perception. More specifically our perception of what we think of our own bodies as well as what we perceive others to think of us. I think for many women these bodily perceptions took root in during adolescence. The transition from girl into woman is so vulnerable & so visible. We are really taught to see what others see—which in turn is all being informed by media.
HR: Thinking about the wider world and the course of history currently taking a turn with this pandemic, how do you think art and artists will respond in the coming months and years?
KM: Well right now it is hard to see past the first wave of disruptions where many opportunities & paid gigs have been cancelled or postponed. There is so much uncertainty. I have turned inward, focusing more on family. My husband Joe Pintz is an artist & we have a four year old. We are really going about this day by day (and then there are days where I’m definitely freaking out about the coming months & years).
But at my core I am an artist & a maker. And I think as artists we are called to keep making, thinking, doing regardless (or because) of the circumstances. And that as artists we need to be resilient. We are problem solvers. We are adaptable.
HR: I’m interested in asking each artist I get to interview this (difficult/impossible/completely personal) question: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
KM: I stumbled upon one of James Turrell’s meeting rooms at PS1 in NYC just out of undergrad. I hadn’t known about the piece or the artist at the time. There’s a very small window of time each day, depending on the weather, that that piece is available for viewing and I was in the right place at the right time. I sat in the room for the full hour looking up at a clear blue sky in complete wonderment & awe. It was a painting, it was solid, it was light, it was air. And then right at the end I saw two bird pass through the viewing frame. It was such an incredible, beautiful, transformative experience for me.