MAY-LING MARTINEZ’s new sculpture and works on paper serve as a metaphor for an innate desire to understand and control our surroundings under difficult circumstances. The works in Measured Resistance engage in the larger domain of relations—among ideas, objects, and the human heart—in order to gain a deeper insight into existential issues, such as the need for security and balance. Intrigued by human behavior and thought process, Martinez investigates the paradoxical idea of maintaining control and stability under chaos. At the same time, she explores the idea that reason and logic, as prescribed by science and engineering, can function as a solace and counterpoint to an unstable reality framed by the infallibility of perception and personal subjectivity.
Employing combinations of pre-fabricated objects and pieces that she has made by hand in her studio,Martinez's work fuses the personal and social, the mundane and the mysterious. Their themes and messages are often communicated in subtle form, by turn endearing and seemingly innocuous or vulnerable and repressive—at times hinting at the macabre (as in a work featuring an image of male figure strapped to a hybrid house/mechanical contraption resembling a medieval torture device). Her earlier work—“triggers to evoke memory” as she calls them—which one critic compared to “unsettling dreams with a retro look”, has given way to increasingly sparse and technically-sophisticated engineered pieces. The innocence and nostalgia of the past, so often filtered through archetypes of 1950s suburban life, or some idealized past, and the artist’s own personal memories, are tempered by concreteness of logic and mechanical engineering.
In Measured Resistance, the human form and function becomes a focus in a wide variety of motifs, whether factually represented (hanging in a tree; stretched out on a gurney) or alluded to (the inhalation/exhalation of the breath; its metamorphosis into a diseased or wounded body). Yet, invariably, the viewer is confronted with the mystery of an incomplete narrative, a mise-en-scene whose deciphering requires not so much the doubt and skepticism of a blurry dream or memory but the rationale and scrutiny that comes with maturity and that allows a participant to break through its seductive illusion.
May-ling Martinez was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives and works in San Diego, California. She holds an MFA degree from San Diego State University (2007) and BA in Communications and Visual Arts from San Juan’s Sacred Heart University (1996). Her work has been included numerous exhibitions and has been reviewed in The San Diego Union Tribune by Robert L. Pincus. She was the recipient of the 2007-2008 San Diego Art Prize in the Emerging Artist category.