Robert Martinez is an ILI Fellow Alum from 2018/19. We caught up with him to hear about what he's doing now.
What have you been working on lately? Please tell us the context...
I’m always busy with one thing or another. Currently I’m working on a large tryptych project for the Bill Cody Center of the West Plains Indian Museum. Along with that I’m continuing pushing the boundaries of my drawing, painting & design. Most of my work has so far featured Native American themes coming from the Arapaho side of my heritage. I’m trying more to explore my Chicano background through my art, so Ive been experimenting with new imagery. On top of that I’ve been picked to create some large public artworks, so I’ve been designing and coordinating that project.
"My ILI experience definitely drove home the differences in thought patterns between people of different heritage, from different places and of different ages."
How does your work connect back to the ideas of "intercultural" and "leadership" - and specifically to your ILI experience?
My work has always been created from a perspective on interculturalality. I come from a number of heritages and I’m proud of each one. The art I create blends images of the past & present, historical & contemporary. I wouldn’t say my art connects “back” ti ILI... I’d say more that ILI reaffirmed my own beliefs about my art.
My ILI experience definitely drove home the differences in thought patterns between people of different heritage, from different places and of different ages. It also reminded me how Artists (who are used to ONLY looking from their own perspective, and have altogether different kinds of egos) have a difficult time overcoming their own issues to view another perspective.
What is your unique perspective and how do you translate that to lead others?
Everyone is unique. But Well... there’s only one ME. I could fill pages up talking about singular things that make me unique, but I’d have to say that being a mixed heritage person has helped me to be able to communicate with others despite the differences people usually focus on.
What were the most surprising outcomes of the work you mentioned? What were some "a-ha" moments?
I recognized that it’s okay to distance yourself from certain people (even in the context of a relationship building experience like ILI) and that there’s a huge difference between talking about issues and actually working (positively) with others about them
"I’ve always tried to be empathic for others but I’m more consciously trying to step out of my usual perspective to the point of view of others, both in my artwork and my personal interactions with others."
What's coming up next for you and/or how are you looking to the next thing and the future? What will you take from ILI into your work moving forward?
I’ve just been given my home states highest creative honor, the Wyoming Governor’s Art Award. My family and I are looking forward to the Ceremony. I’m also looking forward to creating more Art venues for indigenous artists from my tribe. We have a signature event planned for later this spring.
I’ve always tried to be empathic for others but I’m more consciously trying to step out of my usual perspective to the point of view of others, both in my artwork and my personal interactions with others.
Robert Martinez was born on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. He attended Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design and at age 19, he graduated, with honors, becoming the Youngest Native American to graduate at that time. His Arapaho heritage is a constant inspiration, and the past and present resonate strongly throughout his work. You can see his work in the permanent collection for the Smithsonian National Museum for the American Indian in Washington DC, at the Red Cloud Historical Museum in South Dakota and the Rock Springs Fine Art Center in Wyoming.