The world was shaped like a creative spirit, and spun on the axis of self-discovery

Her curiosity piquing an explorative experience in her art and idiosyncrasy – both telling a story of their own, Martique Lorray’s paintings ooze imagination in its most realistic form.

photographs by john vogler + martique lorray / interview by ciara bird

What kind of person you are? I am kind. I am private. I easily relate to strangers. I do not have great sympathy, but I do have great empathy. It is easy for me to see things from other points of view. I am curious. I believe that what I need is always close at hand. I am enamored by human personality, especially our relationship to ourselves. I do not anger easily, but when I do, I get very angry. I believe there are no accidents. I believe most things are possible.

Do you remember your first encounter with art? What was it like? My birth home in Miami was filled with art. “Sunflowers” by van Gogh hung next to Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”, behind a three-foot-tall wooden Jesus, next to a collection of stone Buddhas, beside the “Mona Lisa”, across from a Picasso line-drawing of a female nude, below a fake miniature bull’s head with glass eyes. These objects were part of my playtime with my stuffed animal Pegasus, and I made up my own stories about the works that surrounded me.

Did you always have the intention to become a professional artist? No. But I have always been drawn to the feeling that comes from creating new things, the feeling of exploration.

What’s your creative process? It’s an exploration. I usually have a concept that I’m trying to grasp. For example, when I began the “Bearing Flowers” body of work about the companionship of death and vitality, I wasn’t completely certain of the relationship of those two forces. It was only after creating and meeting the characters and learning about the world they reside in that I was able to fully comprehend and write about their story. Because then I knew.

Why do you paint? I paint because it’s the way I am able to meet the characters I create, and through them I answer questions I have about life. It’s a means for me to meet myself.

How long did it take before you began to find your own style? My own style has always been with me. I believe it arises from the way I view the world.

Tell us about your family and your upbringing. My family is from Jamaica. I was the only one in my immediate family born in the United States. Being a first generation American has allowed me to experience the simpler, passionate, tough love culture of my mother, and compare her ways to traditional American thinking. I believe my personality landed somewhere in-between the two. My parents had a long, messy divorce when I was eight. My father moved back to Jamaica. I was brought up going to work with my mother who was a private caregiver. I would eat and sleep in the homes of the elderly. I would watch them age and eventually pass on. I would listen to the stories of their lives and of their families. Most of them were grumpy, set in their ways, and capable of great love and humor. This experience greatly affected who I am today.

What are you currently working on? I am currently working on a public art project with the Eastland Area Strategies Team (E.A.S.T.) in Charlotte, repurposing the three Eastland Mall signs (referred to as the “Rising Sun” icons) that we saved before the Mall’s demolition. In the studio, I am creating a body of work exploring romantic love. I am also looking forward to interning with Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

What’s the greatest challenge for you concerning the creation of a new collection of work? I constantly write down ideas – on napkins, in journals, on my arm, in my phone… I have piles, boxes, and a children’s desk full of notes. My greatest challenge is organizing and accessing the good ideas.

What do you want to communicate with your work? I want the viewer to feel a story beyond the mere representation of the image. I want to present the viewer with an imaginary world that they somehow are familiar with.

What was the last experience that totally blew your mind? Driving solo across the country from Charlotte to Oregon and back. Sleeping in the back of the car between the paintings for my “Sexy Beast” exhibition and my guitar.. Stopping for a group of wild donkeys that chose to mate in front of my car before completely crossing the road. Spending the night at truck stops with the 18-wheeler brakes sounding like underwater creatures throughout the night.

What/who would be your spirit animal? A snake. I tend to acclimate to the temperature of the environment around me. It’s a very useful trait. It is how I fit into diverse situations with motley people.

Do you need chaos in order to create or do you like things neat and in their place? Depends on your definition of “in their place”. I dislike looking for things, so I put things within my hand’s reach – I push-pin words to walls, tape images and ideas to shelving, leave books open on table tops and the floor… some would refer to that as chaos or out of place, but I know where things are.

What other art forms do you have a high appreciation for? Puppet theatre. I love being drawn into an imaginary world. Live music that is imperfect and passionate with a slight touch of dissonance. Permanent public art. Creating something that a city responds to and lives with is a special thing, indeed.

If you could repeat something in your life, what would it be? From being the bassist in an all-girl art rock music band in Arizona to co-owning a coffeehouse in Oregon, I’ve had a wonderful life… but I have no desire to repeat anything I’ve done. I enjoy how life becomes things I never could have imagined.

Creative freedom is: my birthright.
This interview was conducted early 2014.

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