Richmond Art Center Richmond Art Center

“Making new work and teaching during covid is challenging, but I’m grateful to be able to do it.”

Meet Alex Martinez

Artist Alex Martinez is a second-generation Queer, Mexican-American Chicanx, raised in Watsonville, California. She has lived in the Bay Area for 20 years, and is a teaching artist at Richmond Art Center. 

Alex chatted with Amy Spencer, Exhibitions Director at RAC, on January 12, 2021.

Hi Alex! Let’s start with your art and teaching practice.

I am a dual-credentialed educator and artist. I taught for five years as a special education teacher, but now I am focused on my art practice and anti-racist teaching work, specifically developing curriculum in Bay Area schools. At the moment I’m applying to MFA programs. This is all keeping me busy.

What art project are you working on at the moment?

I’m continuing a series called Legacy of Resilience, which is about amplifying voices of transgender asylum seekers, and missing and murdered indigenous women. This was a collaborative project working with artists Eli Reyes and Malaya Tulay. So far we have created two large-scale portraits that highlight the effects of systemic racism on marginalized populations. The first portrait is called They Came Seeking Protection (2020, mixed medium, 48’’ x 65”) and shows Roxsana Hernandez and Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, transgender asylum seekers who died in detention at the US/Mexico border. The second portrait is called Disappeared Three Times (2020, mixed medium, 48’’ x 65”) and depicts missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, two-spirit and trans people. These works feature painted acrylic portraits, beadwork, text, and appliqué, as well as embroidery and linoleum block printing on the borders. I started the Legacy of Resilience series as part of a YBCA Public Participation Fellowship last year. 

Alex Martinez, Eli Reyes, and Malaya TulayDisappeared Three Times, 2020. Mixed Medium, 48’’ x 65”. Courtesy the artists.

What has it been like continuing to make work and teach online during the pandemic?

At first it really felt like a big challenge and pivot. But teachers are adaptable. I think we all took it as a learning opportunity. Right now I’m an art teacher for middle schoolers. It continues to be a challenge to engage with students as they go from screen to screen, and I’m seeing screen fatigue. But we are just trying to be compassionate and understanding. And create spaces where kids can express some of the complicated feelings they are going through right now.

What are you teaching at Richmond Art Center this semester?

A teen journaling class. The class is designed as a series of one-off activities where kids can engage as they want. I created it like this because of my understanding of how hard it can be for young people to show up online right now. I wanted the class to be available to suit individual kids’ needs. Each class session focuses on a different medium and way of expression, so students can learn how to add a new design dimension to their journal. It’s about helping youth develop their own visual language across a ton of different mediums. As well as giving them the opportunity for exploration and connection with other youth. 

Art Journaling for Teens (for ages 12-17) starts January 20 and runs through February 10. More info about the class is online HERE. Alex is also teaching a kids class Junk Art! (for ages 6-12) this semester. Info HERE. And you can visit Alex’s website to see her work HERE.

Thank you Alex!

Thank you! Making new work and teaching during covid is challenging, but I’m grateful to be able to do it. 

Alex Martinez, Eli Reyes and Malaya TulayThey Came Seeking Protection, 2020. Mixed Medium, 48’’ x 65”. Courtesy the artists.

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