portfolio > Familiar Reasons To Let Go

Familiar Reasons to Let Go
Kelda Martensen

Artist Statement

I had two starting points for the work in this show. One, the moon’s surface, and two, ruled newsprint paper from the mid 20th century found in my father-in-law’s house. What started as a moon became a game of disguise. I pushed and pulled the moon’s textured surface forward and back until the composition set itself on a loop, pulling and pushing us into other spaces. Sylvia Plath writes, “The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right…” But could I use it both as solid surface and as atmospheric opening, was it possible to move the moon? Simultaneously, I worked on smaller collages that started with a blank ruled newsprint page. These pieces became shorthand. They were instant, sometimes only one or two-action collages that became about the history and labor of their paper scraps. Though compositionally resolved in fewer moves, the materials themselves carry a longer story of a handmade and process-intensive habit of art making. I wanted to privilege the casualness of the newsprint, becoming more beautiful with age, with its deepening fawn color and the sweetest cyan lines, asking what we want to take with us and what we want to write down.

These hand-printed collages and artist book are built and composed through many layers and stages of printmaking and collage. I use various printmaking methods including woodblock, drypoint, monotype, solvent transfer, polyester plate lithography, and chine collé. From these varied surfaces, I create new tactile and dimensional compositions that hover on the outskirts of landscape and narrative. Formal arrangement of color, texture and edges present an energetic tension where the page swells with collapsing and invented space.

This recent work aims to be a visual journal – a way of notetaking – on play, and finding focus and momentum in this time. This body of work is about connecting to rather than standing apart from others. Shapes and color play a surprising role, a little unexpected and at times hard to reconcile. The textures recall the familiar: moon, dirt, fire, smoke, flower, rock, sea, tree, earth. These are the Familiar Reasons to Let Go. In the time I was making and thinking through this work, the losses came in like waves, too great and too universal to capture in conversation or in art. Isolated as we were, a family suddenly all alone in a house, I watched my child disappear into a tablet for second grade and my youngest cross the street when a figure appeared in the distance. I felt solitude among friends and a collective ache as we searched for safety and risk, nostalgia and change all at once. I was unsure how to do the things I loved. Bringing me back into the studio are these starting points: paper, the moon, and small gestures that hint at a larger universe.

Artist Statement, January 2021