A brown haired, brown eyed woman stands at the work’s center. She is wearing a green blouse and has a golden halo reminiscent of Catholic icon painting. Her hands mirror each other, forming a circular area in which a glowing, brilliant galaxy fills the space in front of her bosom and womb. Her long hair drapes over her shoulders as if she was wearing a hood. The composition works very well with the wall space that it sits on, the forms making full use of the area they are contained within. On either side of the woman, we see her stature bordered by a forest of trees receding into the background, of which a small variety of birds have taken a perch on.
Back in January of 2016, three artists got together to create a mural on the side of the High Dive dedicated to and in the likeness of an influential Gainesville school teacher. This mural, titled The Center of It All, was a collaboration between three Gainesville artists: Carrie & Jesus Martinez and Tim Malles. Carrie and Jesus Martinez are self-taught artists and the owners of Visionary CrossFit Gym and Gallery on N. Main Street. Jesus is the head coach of the gym and he’s also an illustrator with his artistic inspirations and origins stemming from his background in graffiti. Carrie is a surrealist artist and performance painter. Her Goddess Art portrays powerful images of the Divine Feminine, spiritual symbolism, and the beauty of nature.
Steve Reyes had the chance to sit down and speak with Jesus Martinez about the piece and his experience of creating the mural.
Who is the women in the painting and why did you choose to paint her?
Stephanie Lee, she’s a local school teacher. We chose her as a model for the piece after we did a photoshoot of her, and the reason why we wanted to paint her image is because she is very universal in her appearance, she can take the place of any race in her appearance, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Being a school teacher and being a local woman, our whole idea behind that mural was to portray the spirit of Gainesville, but what we wanted to project in the image is if Gainesville had a spirit, this is what it would look like. We felt that a lot of the murals that have been painted around town don’t really give a lot of locals the chance to relate to them.
Does the woman have any historical or cultural significance to Gainesville?
We just thought she was an example of somebody great from Gainesville. She’s gorgeous but she demands respect, she’s such a good example of what a beautiful woman should be or act like. She’s a really good role model.
Besides the local community, who would you say that this piece is intended for?
All of the stuff that we create has a spiritual significance, it has a universal message. We’re trying to create images that uplift and make people feel good. That could be mother earth, that could be a creator, a goddess, all part of the universal messages that we’re trying to put out there.
What role do you think this mural and the mural project as a whole play in Gainesville?
For me, when I do a mural, I see it as a form of healing. I look at it as medicine for the community. Maybe it can inspire some people around here to do better. When people see our art, we want them to walk away with a positive vibe, and we like to see our works meeting people at pivotal moments of their lives. As for 352Walls, they’re doing a good job of bringing culture and artists into the area, it’s nice.
How would you explain your art to someone who is unfamiliar with visual art?
Our type of art falls into the visionary, outsider category. We’re both outsiders, we’re both completely self-taught artists, we never took any art classes.
They made the composition for that wall specifically. Seck grew up doing graffiti in Miami and that’s how his art career started. He was always into letters but recently, about five years ago he started getting into shapes and figures for painting them. He had an experience with DMT that clicked something in his brain. It opened something up in his head. He’s like the living drawing. He’s had contact with Alex Grey and a couple intensives with him.
You and your wife collaborated with Tim Malles for the piece, can you tell me about what it was like working with him?
Malles painted the galaxy in the center of the piece. His specialty is space art. He’s an example of an elder that lives in the community that’s been doing great art but has been overlooked by some. He’s a well-known artist in Gainesville.
Besides painting, what other mediums do you use for creative expression?
I make whiteboard drawings every day, also a lot of furniture design lately, a lot of 3D blacklight art. I design logos for people and do murals for businesses from time to time as well.
Did anything happen to you, emotionally or spiritually, while creating the piece?
The experience was awesome — the interactions that we had with the locals. There were a lot of conversations with people walking by while we were painting. It was really nice that we were in downtown and that we got to actually interact with a whole lot of people on a daily basis. Connecting with people on that level, where they would open to us about themselves through the artwork, that was really cool.
Were there any emotions present in you during the creation of the piece?
I really wanted to do a good job of putting Stephanie out there and I really wanted to do a good job of representing Gainesville and the local talent around here. Stephanie is a good friend of mine so there were some emotions there driving me to create quality work.
Does the piece spur any intellectual, emotional, or physical response from the audience?
For me, this piece speaks to the beautiful roles that women play. The galaxy represents the limitless potential that exists within her grasp, and it’s placement, spinning over her womb, speaks to the amazing process of pregnancy in which life is brought forth almost out of nothing.
How long did the piece take to create?
Thank you for the interview, Jesus!
Mural location: High Dive, 210 SW 2nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
Read about a new mural by the artists at Sidney Lanier Center, a school for kids with special needs.