Lost to Shadow by David Marteney
From Gallery Manager Lauren Pond
The artworks depicted here are those that would have hung on Fresh A.I.R. Gallery's walls during David Marteney’s exhibition, Lost to Shadow, which was scheduled to show from March 18 - May 8, 2020.
The cancellation of David’s gallery exhibition due to the COVID-19 pandemic is, admittedly, disappointing, for both David and Fresh A.I.R. Coming only a week before the scheduled exhibit opening, the news felt like an addition to the gloom and fear gripping our community: the steadily mounting infection numbers death tolls, the shuttered businesses and canceled events, the rising unemployment, the mandatory isolation.
But stories abound of artistic ingenuity during times of calamity, and the current pandemic is no exception. A recent article describes quarantined Italians singing from their balconies to buoy spirits. On St. Patrick’s Day in Columbus, two children held a cello concert on the porch for their elderly neighbor. And elsewhere around the world, citizens are using Zoom calls and social media to host dance sessions, facilitate creative programming and lessons, and showcase existing artwork.
Art has a way of getting us through dark times, or at least helping us process them. Fresh A.I.R. Gallery is a space for artists who do this on a regular basis – for those who live with mental illness and/or substance use disorders, but find strength, agency, voice, and connection through the act of creating. If ever there were a time to learn from them, it is now. So while we have closed Fresh A.I.R. Gallery's physical doors for the time being, we are also opening this new platform, a space where we can continue to share artists’ work and stories, and to cultivate art as a source of resilience and community during this difficult time.
Long before coronavirus ever required distance learning, David Marteney's lifelong struggle with major depression prevented him from attending traditional art school, and he learned to draw and paint through online courses available from the New Master's Academy. Part of what's striking about his artwork is its intricate attention to lighting and gesture, but also, perhaps even more so, its vulnerability and openness. Undoubtedly imbued by David's own struggles, nearly every person he portrays is nude and carries a title connoting mental anguish. Contorting in dark and light, these individuals convey turmoil and tenderness, invite empathy and compassion. David was able to focus on his craft only after in-patient treatment at a psychiatric hospital, where he had the opportunity to talk openly with people in similar circumstances. “Likewise,” he writes, “it is my hope that these pieces will speak to people like me, and to provide them, if even for a moment, the comfort of knowing there are others like us.”
Below, read David's words and learn more about his work and artistic process.
From David Marteney
I am an artist with a passion for figurative art. I have always been fascinated by the rhythms of the human form in all its shapes. I currently explore these using a mix of charcoal and black pastels, but am also in the process of learning how to create with oil-based paints.
The majority of the pieces here are from my Lost to Shadow series. With this body of work, I wanted to convey what it’s like to live with depression: the hidden turmoil of a life ever-interrupted by a mind fascinated with its own destruction, and the loss we feel each and every day as the shadows looming in our psyche claim yet another piece of our will to go on. I’ve been living with depression and suicidal ideation for most of my life, and the idea for this collection came to me during my stay in a mental health facility after a suicide attempt in November 2017.
Making art does not come easily for me. For many artists who struggle with mental health issues, the artistic process can feel like a purging, but I often do not find peace in my work. For me, making art is more of a compulsion. My process is mentally taxing as my mind races to criticize my every mark, and I battle my own self-loathing every time I create. Earlier on, I would often lose this battle and destroy whichever piece I was working on, but as I have learned more – both about the process of making art and about myself – I’ve built more endurance to withstand my mind’s darker moods.
My struggles with mental health left me unable to create art for many years or get a formal education in the subject. It wasn’t until after my suicide attempt – when I was hospitalized, started taking medication, and followed a strict therapy schedule – that I was able to pursue art in any real way. I became determined to use the wealth of knowledge available online as a guide to help me grow as an artist. I owe a lot to the teachings of Stan Prokopenko and all the fabulous teachers at New Masters Academy.
One of my greatest fears used to be that I would end up in a mental health facility, but ultimately the 10 days I spent hospitalized were some of the most important in my life. The most meaningful part was getting to meet and talk openly with other people struggling like I was. While the connections I made there did not result in long-term friendships, I will always carry the memories of them. Likewise, it is my hope that these pieces will speak to people like me, and to provide them, if even for a moment, the comfort of knowing there are others like us. We don’t have to treat our condition as a terrible beast to hide: We can confront and find the tragic beauty in it, and address it with proper treatment and support.
Lost to Shadow has been immensely important for my growth as an artist and as a person. The mistakes I’ve made, the triumphs I have earned, and my determination to grow are all on display.
Visit David's website and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Read an interview with David on the Figure Drawing Blog.
Virtual exhibit produced by Lauren Pond