Invoking the Divine Feminine, Delita Martin’s Mixed-Media Portraits Embrace Self-Empowerment


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“Blue Stars” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, acrylic, liquid gold leaf, decorative papers, hand stitching. All images © Delita Martin, shared with permission

“Duality is the idea that there are two realms within (the) spirit world,” says Delita Martin, “one that is seen and one that is unseen.” This coupling is a grounding force for the artist as she practices an alchemy of spirit and aesthetics, coaxing dynamic figures from a mélange of patterns, materials, and symbols.

Through a vivid body of work titled Conjure, Martin explores what it means to be self-empowered as a Black woman and embrace “the veilscape,” a spirit world in which the unseen, freedom from racism and sexism, transformation, and ancestral connection prevail. The artist refers to this space as an “intangible reality” and returns to it again and again as she overlays her relief-printed portraits with charcoal, acrylic, gold leaf, and threaded details.

 

“Resting Place” (2020), charcoal, acrylic, decorative papers, hand stitching

While this conceptual layer remains throughout all of Martin’s works, her vast use of symbols shifts with each portrait. She might feature a bird mid-flight, as in “Flying (Feather Skirt),” for example, to convey an unrestricted spirit, or a full flock bound to a subject’s shoulders as in “Feathers” to communicate the experience of being tethered to another. Recurring in different forms on garments or backdrops, circles are similarly evocative as they reference the connection between the divine feminine and the moon. Color, too, is emblematic. She shares:

Although I do not subscribe to any particular theory on color, I very much believe that color causes a reaction and can connect with the human spirit. For my own purposes, colors like red and orange carry a fiery energy, and blues are very calming and actually connect more closely to the spirit world in my work than any other color. I tend to favor blues the most in my work. Yellows and golds are what I consider outdoor colors that reference the earth, colors that are closely related to the waking world. Greens I connect with nature and growth. Purples/burgundy I associate with mystery and time.

Washes of acrylic or fragments of colorful patterns blur the distinction between body and surroundings, emphasizing the co-existence of the physical and spiritual worlds and reminding the viewer that part of the self always remains invisible and hidden behind the veil.

Martin, who is based in Huffman, Texas, and represented by Galerie Myrtis, will have new portraits on view this month at Tiwani Contemporary in London and is teaching a printmaking course in Salzburg this July. Find more of Conjure and other works on her site and Instagram.

 

Left: “Woman Sitting (Golden Stool)” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, acrylic, decorative papers, hand stitching. Right: “Claiming What Has Risen” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, fabric, decorative papers, hand stitching, acrylic

“Feathers” (2020), charcoal, acrylic, relief printing, decorative papers, liquid silver leaf, hand stitching

“Flying (Feather Skirt)” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, acrylic, fabric, decorative papers, hand stitching

Left: “Offerings” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, decorative papers, hand stitching, acrylic, liquid gold leaf. Right: “Mirrors and Sky” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, acrylic, decorative papers, hand stitching

“The Moon Now Rises” (2020), relief printing, charcoal, acrylic, decorative papers, hand stitching

Martin at work in her studio in Huffman, Texas

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