Getting to Know Delita Martin

An Intimate Conversation

Stella:
Why is the art of quilting so important – as it relates to your work?
Delita:
I grew up helping my grandmother make quilts. Her quilts usually included scraps of clothing and fabrics that she gathered from family and some of our old school clothes that we could no longer wear. As we would quilt at night she would tell me stories about each piece of fabric as well as other family stories. As I grew older I realized she was piecing together (she would refer to quilting as piecing together) my history. I feel like she passed on to me this oral tradition, so when I think about my work, I think of it as visual story telling. So the element of quilting just naturally felt right and made sense as part of my process. 
Stella:
Are you surprised by how quickly your career has taken off?
Delita:
Yes, I am surprised. I decided I was an artist when I was 5yrs old. So when I look back over the years I think my career has been a lifetime in the making. It has been an amazing journey and the experience alone has been worth it. 
Stella:
Do you think your work reframes the way Black Women are viewed? How do you
navigate the inevitability of the white gaze?
Delita:
Yes, I do. I think what I’m most excited about is how Black Women, themselves are reframing how they see themselves and other Black Women when they view my work. One of the most political subjects to date is the Black female body. When you, as a Black Woman can take ownership of your body image, present a narrative that you know to be true and present it to the world, it can be very powerful and impactful. My answer to the white gaze has been simply not to entertain it. I understand that in the art world certain levels of success require an unspoken validation from the white gaze. I have never felt I needed that type of validation. I have always subscribed to just making good art and being prepared to be a good steward of the success that would bring.
Stella:
Would you ever go back to academia?
Would it help you stay plugged in to what’s new? Would it inform your work?
Delita:
I don’t want to ever say what I won’t do, but I can say it’s not in my plans. When I first left academia I was afraid I would be unplugged with what’s happening in the art world, I was afraid of missing out on opportunities, and I was going to miss my students. It was terrifying to think about leaving because all these things informed my work. I figured out fairly quickly all those fears were unfounded. Even though I’m not in a classroom setting, I still teach, just not in the traditional sense. I often have people in the studio learning about printmaking as well as visiting college campuses to talk to students about their work. I am also very much plugged in to the art world as information comes from being engaged with artists in the community and the world around you.
Stella:
Since your career has taken off so fast, how do you manage your life with a husband and son?
Delita:
I have to admit it’s really hard to have balance. I don’t’ believe that you can completely balance out everything. Some months are just better than others. Sometimes work comes out on top, other times its family or Personal care. So I have what I like to call my Balance Goals. Having a supportive family really helps in getting as close as I can to my Balance Goals. Not only are my husband and son my biggest cheerleaders but they always help out with whatever is needed. My son is my photographer. He documents my openings and my studio practice. He also plays the role of studio assistant. My husband helps with administrative tasks, booking travel, transporting art work, project management and he manages the house when I have major projects. The list goes on. 
Stella:
There are so many young women artists who have distractions that keep them from producing art. Distractions can be anything from children, family issues, economics,physical limitations (too tired to do everything,) etc. What is your advice?
Delita:
I think it’s important to understand that these distractions are ALWAYS going to be there. They will never go away. I face all of these and more every day. With that in mind, if you want to be successful you have to figure out what works best for you in order to get the work done. Figure out your studio practice. Once you figure it out, put it into action. When my son was a toddler I would give him tasks and art projects to do in the studio with me while I worked. There was a time I couldn’t always afford to make the type of work I wanted to make. I was having a difficult time affording paper, ink, and printing plates. Some of my first prints were gelatin prints. My printing plates were made from Knox gelatin, about $1.50 per box and I used student grade acrylic paint as a substitute for ink. Several months ago I had surgery and I couldn’t be in the studio for 8 wks. So my son collected some small test prints from the studio and my husband set up a table next to the bed and I created a series of small drawings on paper. So you just have to be creative in what works for you and then make it happen.