On the occasion of the Summer Salon at Modern West in Salt Lake City, we take a look at one of the artists in the group show, Kim Martinez. 

V. Kim Martinez is an enthusiastic artist, educator and active community member based in Salt Lake City, UT. Her research concerns the visual communication of societal structures and complexities of space through painting, drawing, murals, foundry, mosaics and video animation. Martinez has been a professor of painting and drawing at the University of Utah since 2001 and continues to influence generations of artists locally, nationally and internationally. >Martinez’ series of paintings titled Mujeres de Colores employ superheroic female characters fragmented from important figures present throughout the artist’s life. These women are part real, part imagined, reconstructed from the memories and experiences of being a woman of color.  

Martinez, having an extensive background in academic painting techniques, uses her knowledge of anatomy and proportion to articulate her characters without visual reference. She renders them through tedious sketches exploring the relationship between skeleton, muscle and skin, as well as the clothing that overlays. Then, exaggerating their prescribed attributes, she dresses the women in twenty-first-century fantasy heroes, fluctuating muscles, exotic costumes, exuberant accessories and dynamic poses. 

The characters become isolated against saturated, contrasted backgrounds, interestingly lacking the context to further define the narrative confidently exuding off of the aluminum canvases. “I use an intense color ground that either subtracts or intensifies skin color that is anxious, indicating impatience for social power structures to change,” says Martinez. “The lack of context is metaphorical; it portrays repressed cultural memories and the imbalance of social-political power.”

 The physicality of painted aluminum references ex-voto paintings, exemplifying exoticism and confrontational sensuality. “I interrupt this hyper-sexuality with powerful yet vulnerable facial expressions and attention to detail, creating, paradoxically, a strong impression of unreality, my attempt to reconstruct personas from my fragmented memory.“

V. Kim Martinez has lived as a cornerstone of the Salt Lake City arts community for decades –– in 2003 she received the Salt Lake City Mayors Visual Artist Award for her contributions and in 2019, she was selected as one of the 15 most influential artists in Utah by 15 Bytes Magazine. Mujeres de Colores, although representing only a small selection of Martinez’ expansive catalog, signifies an understanding of the broad composite of her community and the powerful voices standing within it.