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Rising Stars: Meet Angelo Ray Martínez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angelo Ray Martínez. 

Angelo, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
When I was younger, I never imagined that I could teach at a college or exhibit my artwork in museums and galleries, but I knew that I wanted to be an artist. I am a first-generation college student and a high school dropout, so I had no idea how to navigate academia or the so-called “art world” and my plan was to become a tattoo artist. I was pursuing a tattoo apprenticeship in Denver, CO and took some intro-level art classes at the community college, where an awesome professor explained the educational path needed to pursue a career as an artist/professor. I then redirected my goals and went on to eventually receive an MFA in painting from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. I am now a full-time professor and Director of the Visual Arts Program at Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, IN. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It can be difficult to balance being a teacher and an artist because my artwork doesn’t always feel like the highest priority. My wife and I also have a 2-year-old daughter, so making art often falls behind teaching responsibilities and home life. However, I am fortunate to have been invited to include my work in some amazing exhibitions over the past few years, so I have somehow been able to keep making new work! 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I create paintings and drawings depicting fish and aquatic scenes as metaphors that address the complexities of human perception and experience. These works are part of an ongoing series, titled “Quest of the Steelhead”, which are scenes from an imaginary video game about fishing on the St. Joseph River, a tributary to Lake Michigan that I personally fish quite often. 

The images in the series shift between representations that are more realistic and others that are more pixelated. The pixelation is a reference to 8-bit Nintendo graphics and is symbolic of that which one cannot immediately perceive or see, but that still exists. I am fascinated with the human capacity to believe in things that they do not observe. Fishing is a perfect metaphor for this act of faith, as the fisher typically does not perceive the fish underwater, but they trust that the fish are there and sometimes get a glimpse of their presence. 

My work is also an exploration of the pixel, turned pigment. The final images are rendered in paint, but they are a hybrid of both digital and analog processes. I create detailed digital sketches that are inspired by a combination of found imagery from the internet, vintage video games, and other forms of computerized visual communications. The preliminary images are then translated into traditional paintings as a means of addressing one of the key characteristics of 21st-century life, the constant influence of digital technologies on the human mind/body. 

What are your plans for the future?
I am most intrigued with artworks that venture into the unknown, so I hope to continue developing this current series of paintings and to keep finding new and unforeseen symbols and metaphors within it. 

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