How did you get into making art?
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my mother. Before starting kindergarten, I remember she had a schedule full of activities for me everyday, which included solving puzzles, going on long walks around the Pilsen neighborhood where I grew up in Chicago, reciting poetry, and reading Mexican home economics magazines. Sometimes we would find art activities in the magazines and create collages together. We would follow most of the instructions but I remember improvising a lot with materials we had at home like newspaper and grocery advertisements. Occasionally, my grandmother would visit and she taught me how to sew. Once I started school, I participated in painting classes and my art teacher encouraged me to take youth classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. The art program at my school didn’t last long and there was a gap between kindergarten and fifth grade where I didn’t have an art teacher. However, Pilsen was full of murals, graffiti, and artists, so I was always studying and observing the color and scale of public art. My mother would also take me to the National Museum of Mexican Art where I learned more about painting and the complicated history of Mexico. Once I started high school, I went to a Catholic school that had a rigorous art curriculum and that’s when I started to fully engage my time in creating art. My high school art teacher introduced me to installation art and I also participated in various programs throughout Chicago that encouraged me to experiment with mural painting.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on large-scale textile paintings incorporating house paint, bleach and dyes. Each painting will be approximately twelve-feet tall by twenty-feet wide and have cut out doors so people can walk through them and experience both sides of the paintings. These works will be exhibited in my solo exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in California in 2022.
My inspiration for this project stems from my reverence for architecture and the desire to create interactive environments with layers of fiber.
What inspired you to get started on this body of work?
My inspiration for this project stems from my reverence for architecture and the desire to create interactive environments with layers of fiber. It’s also inspired by public art. I love going on long walks and taking photos of decaying paint and murals. I study the photos and create my own compositions with fabric that I see as “building blocks” for my projects.
Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?
I work on distinct projects.
What’s a typical day like in your studio?
It depends if I’m painting or sewing. If it’s a paint session, I cover my studio floor with tarps, lay fabric on top of the tarps and on my walls, prime the fabric, and paint on the textiles. Then I go for a walk to the cafe and come back to add more paint. If I’m sewing, I set up various tables and create stations for hand sewing and machine sewing. I love sewing because it brings me a sense of tranquility and sometimes my friend Freya helps me stitch large-scale work. Every time we work together it feels like we are sewing long gowns or are in some type of medical procedure as we dissect, layer, and pierce the fabric with needles. I see fabric as skin and dream journal pages.
Who are your favorite artists?
Doris Salcedo, Amalia Pica, Pipilotti Rist, Carolina Caycedo, Niki de Saint Phalle, Cecilia Vicuña, Pia Camil, Mariana Castillo Deball, Claire Zeisler, and Frida Khalo.
Where do you go to discover new artists?
I learn about new artists every time I visit my friend who is an independent curator and writer. She has a library in her home and shares books with me, which I deeply appreciate.
Victoria Martinez is an artist based in Chicago who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist: