Exploring Comfort and Contentedness w/ Lilian Martinez


Artist //

Lilian Martinez

Posted //

July 4th, 2021

Written by //

Mikaela Duhs

34 year old Los Angeles-by-way of Chicago moved to the quaint town outside of Joshua Tree National Park about a year ago with her husband and creative partner, Martinez smiles politely and tucks her hair behind her ear, preparing to answer another series of questions about her funky paintings, pillows, throws, and sculptures.

Extravagant turquoises, hazel greens, and soft yellows — that are partly inspired by the washed-out colors she found in Los Angeles — scorch paper and canvas and churn their way into gorgeous backgrounds for the large brown women that take center stage in Martinez’s work. Simple line work creates vibrant and visually appealing scapes that create a sense of accessibility with subject matter like basketballs, dogs, vases, plants and fruit sprinkled throughout. This is on purpose. Martinez says she doesn’t draw in concepts but paints and creates her homegoods collection and Instagram business BFGF to feel comfortable, competent and connect with others.

Martinez grew up in Chicago where her childhood and adolescence was spent mostly alone. The youngest of XX kids, and the daughter of Mexican American immigrants, Martinez watched TV, ate snacks as a sense of comfort. Always interested in drawing, but never nurtured in that way, Martinez never pursued or made art because she thought it was something you were ordained with or born into.

“Art was sort of this mystical thing that I didn’t understand. I remember seeing a poster in the library when I was really little. It was Diego Rivera, ‘Woman With Flowers’ or something and I just remember looking at it and being like, is this art? There was this feeling of not knowing what it was but being interested in it.”

It wasn’t until junior high school, where Martinez found herself in photography classes, did she realize making something out of nothing was all she wanted to do. Photography felt more functional as a career, but she struggled technically to master light and perspective.

“It didn’t register in my brain how to make the image that I wanted to make through, through a camera.”

She went on to study photography at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but discovered she didn’t like the process of tackling a concept beforehand. She preferred making work and then figuring out its meaning later, a concept she utilizes now.

Low and behold, Martinez brilliantly pivoted to painting and drawing.

“It was a revelation. I can make whatever I want to make and it doesn’t have to be naturalistic and it can be any color I want. It was very liberating and fun for me.”

Despite this incredible discovery, isolation and quiet have been constant themes throughout Martinez life, even now, in the desolate Yucca Valley and even further, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I took a year to rest, work from home and finish up work for a show that was supposed to happen in April of 2020. I was thinking, Okay, I’m rested, I’m ready, I’m ready to travel and do stuff again, and then we had to spend a year and, you know, even more time in isolation. That was tough because after a show, I always liked to take a trip just to sort of reset and then start working again. I had to think about what I wanted to do next without having that refresh to help me move forward.”

Luckily, BFGF, commissions and solo work are still paying the bills and Martinez finds immense gratification in her work. The confidence in her craft allows her to find mea