School of Art and Design Alumna April Marten

Contemporary artist is exhibiting across the country

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 31, 2019) — Communication and creative expression are not cut and dry notions, but fluid ideas that we as humans can explore, create, and imitate. Artist April Marten uses these ideas to question the world around us through art. A 2012 BFA graduate in Drawing and Painting at Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) School of Art and Design (SOAAD), Marten is making waves in the art community with her work, including a recent exhibition in New York City.

Frances Series

Untitled (Frances Wasn’t a Saint) No. 2, 2019. Pigment print on panel. 24 x 24”. Image courtesy of the artist. 

From KSU’s Zuckerman Museum of Art to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, NYC’s Foley Gallery to Charlotte, N.C.’s Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Marten’s work has been on display nationally. As artist-in-residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in North Carolina, she displayed a limited edition of her project Frances Wasn’t a Saint. This is where the cards fell into place for Marten: little did she know that well-known art dealer Monica King visited her exhibition at McColl. King purchased one of the prints from Marten’s exhibition for her private collection, then, according to Marten, “reached out and began conceiving of an exhibition around this entire series of work.” King then offered Marten a solo exhibition as the inaugural show for her new gallery opening in Tribeca, NY.

This kind of break does not come by often, especially with the continuous opportunities it provided to Marten. “At first, it was intimidating,” confesses Marten, [by] “the thought of filling an entire NYC gallery with work that was so important to me personally and to incorporate live performance using my own body.” She pushed passed the intimidation with King’s guidance and now she says, “to show work on such a spectacular stage is one thing, but to be represented by a gallerist who is interested in nurturing an emerging artist’s career is like winning the golden ticket!” Marten’s work kicked off the gallery on September 6, 2019, with a live performance by Marten on September 7, 2019, and her work was on display through October 12, 2019.

Blue and Broom

Blue and Broom, 2019. Mixed Media. Dimensions Variable. Image courtesy of the artist. 

Frances Wasn’t a Saint explores the female identity and the societal and power structures that we allow to shape it. Using multiple mediums, including still images, multimedia sculptural installations, video, and live performance, Marten creates a figure named Frances, a representation of women, “an ambiguous female figure who lived, a grandmother I couldn’t really know, but who is talking to me and through me now,” says Marten. Frances began as a personal inquiry through private performance, where Marten explored and confronted the “historically problematic male gaze via the lens of the camera,” she says. “I was thinking of the #MeToo movement and the ever-increasing cry of women to confront gender-based violence and predatory behavior head-on.”

Lullaby for a Harlot Performance

Lullaby for a Harlot, 2019. Performance aftermath. Image courtesy of the artist. 

Born in 1969 in Miami, FL, Marten grew up in a family deeply tied to a fundamentalist Christian group. Artistic expression and critical thought were considered threats to this community’s foundations, and Marten’s early inclinations towards art and creativity were thoroughly suppressed. “It took ten years of my adult life to make the break and finally pursue my intellectual curiosity,” says Marten.

In this pursuit, she decided to move to Atlanta for a fresh start and sought an educational institution that allowed her to delve into multiple research topics. “I was interested in art as a vehicle for social dialogue,” says Marten. “KSU’s interdisciplinary studies department seemed like a good fit as a place where I could combine my research interests.” After a couple of years at KSU, with the assistance of academic advisors, Marten decided to focus her studies on art full-time. After graduating with her BFA, she began creating and researching and started her career through her exhibitions and residencies, mainly in North Carolina.

Given her interest in interdisciplinary creative research, Marten started seeking MFA programs in 2016 that offered funding and support for multidisciplinary practices. With recommendations from mentors, Marten ultimately landed on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and their Time-Based Art program, focusing on a contemporary arts studio practice and the development of creative strategies that utilize interdisciplinary approaches. “I was drawn to the work and practice of Time-Based Art faculty Emily Bivens,” says Marten, “and felt I could thrive under her advisement. It turns out I was correct.” Marten applied and was granted a pre-thesis research assistantship at UTK under Bivens’ invitation. The assistantship provides student and teacher the opportunity to work together exploring common research interests. Marten said, “This opportunity is a highlight of my time at UTK.”

Marten continues to research and delve into the human condition through art. She has explored areas such as religious histories, gender-based violence, ritual, excess, and consumption. “All of these come under the umbrella of questioning the function of ecstasy and whose happiness matters,” says Marten. “The subjects I explore, at times, feel dark and heavy, so I infuse the work with layers of humor and meditative relief, employing magical realism.”

Her most recent, and current favorite, project is an installation entitled Dinner of White Desire (2019) recently exhibited at Goodyear Arts in Charlotte, NC. It is a unique piece, displaying an unusual dinner spread consisting of mismatched food such as cauliflower, white jelly beans, and uncooked lima beans. A recipe card and shopping list are included, giving not only instructions for preparing the food, but setting the entire room, including putting sugar on the floor. The intention of the piece is interactive, having gallery visitors sit at the table and experience “sipping” the duck egg tea from simple white teacups, all while leaving their mark via footprints in the sugar. A single sentence about the installation is given for description: “I fear we are growing increasingly intolerant to what remains after ecstasy.”

Blue window peachpie

Blue Window, 2019. Sugar, Wood, Ceramic. 23” x 25” x 4.5”. Image courtesy of the artist. 

To see a catalogue of Marten’s professional work, along with more information about what inspires her, please visit aprilmarten.com.

--Lauren Richmond

©