Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits

  • A mixed-media work shows two seated figures facing each other; the first woman sits cross-legged staring confidently out at viewer while the second woman is masked and gazes elsewhere. In the background blue abstract shapes and two orange orbs fill the space between them.
    Delita Martin, The Moon and the Little Bird, 2018; Acrylic, charcoal, gelatin printing, collagraph printing, relief printing, decorative papers, hand-stitching, and liquid gold leaf on paper, 79 x 102 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Myrtis; Photo by Joshua Asante
  • Mixed-media work of a seated dark skin person from the chest up staring confidently at the viewer; an overlay of bright orange and circular patterns of white, blue, and brown circles covers the person and background.
    Delita Martin, Believing In Kings (detail), 2018; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Myrtis; Photo by Joshua Asante
  • A print of two standing women facing each other, one has her hand on the other's shoulder while holding a mask.
    Delita Martin, New Beginnings (detail), 2017; Collection of Sheila C. Johnson; Photo by Joshua Asante

Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits on view January 17–April 19, 2020

Delita Martin (b. 1972, Conroe, Texas) creates large-scale prints onto which she draws, sews, collages, and paints. Martin claims space for her subjects, particularly black women, creating a powerful presence that simultaneously highlights the historical absence of black bodies in Western art.

Through her work, Martin aims to create a new iconography for African Americans based on African tradition, personal recollections, and physical materials. A recurring theme throughout Martin’s work is exploring interconnections between past and present generations. She conveys these connections through symbols such as circles, a shape representative of the moon and symbolic of the female, and birds, which represent the human spirit. Masks, inspired by the Sowei and Ife masks of West Africa, appear in many of Martin’s works, signifying transition between this world and the spirit world. Her use of color is also symbolic, particularly the color blue, which she associates with spirituality.

Additionally, Martin incorporates materials and imagery linked to her personal memory, and likens this process to quilting, a skill she learned from her grandmother. Expertly layering all of these elements, Martin visualizes the liminal space between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits showcases seven monumental works combining tradition with innovation. Through her rigorous and meticulously layered process, Martin creates striking images that bridge time and space between generations. 


Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits, presented in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is organized by the museum and generously supported by the members of NMWA. Additional support is provided by the Belinda de Gaudemar Curatorial Fund.

Exhibition-related Programming

National Museum of Women in the Arts