How to be an accessible nonconformist? Simply mimic the mantras and actions of Chris Martin. If only that were a feasible task for the innocent bystander. Chris Martin decided to march to his own drummer within the art world in 1993. He found a tiny space with good bones in a 1950’s building in Dallas and chose to show his own paintings, curating and carefully controlling the experience his buyers would have with his work. It worked. His decisions continue to be “gut based” and lucky for him, he is blessed with good instincts.
While he taps into the flow and channel, the “magical realm” in the creative process, he’s not just going with the flow. Here are some Martin mantras: don’t give up your power or vision to anyone in business, believe in your dreams (literally), when in a bind - do what is reasonable and get back to work! Failure is not an option, be vigilant, connect with people, give back, goals are limiting-stay challenged, necessity is the mother of invention and do not show it until it’s right!
With enviable good looks and a contagious smile, he promises he’s more relaxed than he used to be. He has intentionally kept himself out of the “sea of comparison,” which he says he learned by watching Apple define their space and create an experience associated with a brand. Martin is a brand in a way. But that brand, unlike many that get diluted or spread too thin, his has a laser-like focus. He’s not on autopilot nor is the evolution of his work. His “babies” (as he calls his finished paintings - there are 5,000 out there) are gorgeous pieces he created controlling a capricious medium, pushing pigment and water on the impermeable surface of lucite. He is shown and collected worldwide. Validation as an artist hit home for him with a synchronous moment when, following the Venice Biennale, he was speaking as part of a 4-person show in Paris. A collector came out of the audience, in that fabled city of art, and purchased a piece on the spot. His work is purposeful- recreating the cellular structures and gestures reoccurring in nature. Creating environments and impacting with a distinct atmosphere from the walls of his beautifully-hung gallery in Aspen to the walls of his buyers. Lifting up spaces. That’s what he intends and that’s what he relentlessly pursues.
A hard working artist, he’s kinetic. Which made his 120-foot-long piece “Velocity” the perfect fit for the Formula 1 racetrack in Austin. The goal his friend and client Bobby Epstein who owns the track gave him was to “make it feel fast.”
He started painting “late in life” at age 18. Feeling incredibly fortunate to make more than a basic living with his art, he is committed to artistic tithing. He knows the pulse of giving back, the self-perpetuated career and the universal energy tapped to make all this possible. Raised in Florida, continuing from school into gallery ownership in Dallas, he and his stunning wife Stacie and kids Conrad and Piper have called Aspen home for 5 ½ years. He finds a balance between family and work in several key ways. Firstly, he’s comfortable switching his many hats within the course of one day. He also involves family in his business.
Martin’s employees are either like family or are family. His right hand man Bob Johnson and gallery manager Jared Rich are solid, not just employees but collaborators and trusted friends who “work with him, not for him.” His mother was an artist, extremely supportive of her son and his dad runs his books. His kids don’t spend much time at his working studio at the base of Aspen Highlands, though. When he’s immersed in his painting flow, don’t knock. Don’t let that superhuman gaze scare you though. He’s in this business because of people. Martin’s eleven-year-old son, Conrad, is his biggest fan saying, “I never know what my dad will create next….he inspires me.”
Martin’s paintings are his way of connecting. New friends are formed with each transaction. He knows their names, their kids, their pets (he has raised significant funds for the Aspen Animal Shelter for years with a recent goal to send one of his trucks filled with supplies and returning with displaced pets from Houston). The phone rings mid-interview; his face lights up and he chats amicably as he enjoys a call from another happy owner of one of his unique works.
There are pros and cons to being a self-representing artist, he admits. Connecting, the relationships, the friendships are what bind him to this career and what drive him to this particular medium – one devoted to controlling the uncontrollable. Finding an organic resolution with inorganic materials and a nonconformist business acuity. From his fearless exploration of gesture and the dance of pigment and flow, and a ceaseless and faithful pursuit of success, we reap the bounty of works that transport, soothe, lift and inspire.
Olivia Daane received a B.A. From Vanderbilt University. She then studied with Syracuse University’s undergraduate and graduate programs in Florence, Italy. Olivia opened LIVASPENART STUDIO in 2006 and LIVASPENART GALLERY (www.livaspenartgallery.com) in Aspen, CO. She is a painter (known for her butterfly series begun in 2008), art consultant, songwriter and mom.