The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 21, 2013

Irish artist Ann Martin displays 'talent to witness' at Hillstrom exhibit



“Painting amuses my peculiar talent to witness,” Martin said. “The skill is the skill to communicate what I see.”

Among the works on display at the Hillstrom is “Liver and Onions,” a piece Martin painted in 2008 during one of her occasional visits to the area after moving to Ireland. Martin painted the image at the Ulmer Cafe in New Ulm. In her typical style, she took no photographs and painted the majority of the work on site.

The result is a bustling, robust composition that is more than the sum of its parts. As Martin writes in the essay that accompanies the work, “Liver and Onions” illuminates how such meeting places are “steeped in an honest affection for the pleasures of company and attention.”

Martin said she didn’t paint the Ulmer because she longed to belong to that society. Instead, she painted it because of an inner desire to relate to humanity on a deeper level.

“I have a mandate in me that is hardwired to understand people,” said Martin, who added that she will be visiting St. Peter in April to view the exhibit and is looking forward to renewing the fellowship she enjoyed while painting the Ulmer. “I believe that we, as humans, use the arts as a way to know ourselves. We use the arts to augment our lives.”

Such threads unite much of Martin’s work.

In “Livin’ the Life,” three eccentrically clad young woman flounce down a crowded boulevard, reveling in their expressive freedom. In “Sunday Faithful,” a preacher booms his message to an attentive crowd. In “Hackett’s Bar”, patrons imbibe and converse in a well-trodden pub.

In each, Martin’s subjects are portrayed without irony or sarcasm. Instead, they are crafted with an eye toward preserving their authenticity and integrity as human beings.

“You have to get out of the way and let (the subject) flow to you,” she said. “You create the space for people to be able to come forward and reveal themselves.”

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