ST PETER — Having witnessed some of the great trials of injustice in modern American history, Ann Martin’s paintings could look much different.
As a freelance court sketch artist for the ABC Network during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the one-time Judson resident and Gustavus Adolphus College student was present during the trials of the Chicago Seven, Gainesville Eight, the Wounded Knee Incident, the Kent State Shootings and Watergate.
For all of them, she sat in the gallery, feverishly compositing the idiosyncrasies, expressions and actions of the main players into courtroom drawings that later appeared on news broadcasts. And all the while, the young woman who had been accepted into Gustavus before she even had a high school diploma began to see a very different America than the one she had hoped for as a youth.
Her disillusionment eventually prompted her to relocate herself and young children to Ireland in the early 1990s.
Along the way, Martin never stopped painting. But rather than creating images that evoke social inequality, violence or cruelty, Martin’s paintings strike at the more optimistic and sympathetic sides of human existence.
“I want my paintings to be observant and loving,” she said, speaking from her home in County Cork, Ireland, “with touches of humor.”
Martin’s work is on display at Gustavus’ Hillstrom Museum of Art through April 21 in an exhibit titled “How Things Are.” Her work is being shown concurrently with an exhibit of works by the so-called Ashcan School artists, an influential group of early 20th-century artists who based their works on scenes of real people and real lives rather than classical and romantic subjects.
Martin draws a direct link between her work and that of the Ashcan artists, whose work forms the core of Hillstrom’s permanent collection (see accompanying story).