Urgent Museum Notice

Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits

Mixed-media work of a seated dark skin person staring confidently at the viewer; an overlay of bright orange and circular patterns of white, blue, and brown circles covers the person and background.
Jan 17 to Apr 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.

 

A print of two standing women with dark skin facing each other and staring into each other's eyes, the shorter woman on the left has her hand resting on the taller woman's shoulder while holding an orange mask that is staring back at her.

Delita Martin, New Beginnings, 2017; Acrylic, relief printing, lithography, charcoal, decorative paper, and hand-stitching on paper, 74 x 54 in.; Collection of Sheila C. Johnson; Photo by Joshua Asante

Exhibition Sponsors

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.

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 with 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

Related Quote

The portraits Martin composes are courageous explorations about the power and vulnerability of our relationships with seen and unseen worlds."
Hyperallergic

Related Blog Post

Associate Curator Ginny Treanor goes behind the scenes of Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits.

Right: 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

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 with two orange orbs fill the space between them.

Related Media

Online Exhibition

This online exhibition provides an immersive look at seven of Martin's large scale works, with audio commentary by the artist.

Studio Tour

In association with NMWA, Black Box Press Studio presents a short film on Texas-based artist Delita Martin. Martin discusses her studio space and practice, as well as her inspirations and the symbolic meaning in her work.