While artists abound who enjoy conjuring up astronauts, robots, space battles and creatures from another world, few are able to achieve the striking balance that makes the extraterrestrial imagery of Mario Martinez, better known simply as Mars-1, so compelling. Born of the skateboard and graffiti cultures of his Californian surroundings, and even more so by the trippy European Comics of Moebius and the pseudo-organic tech of latter-day anime, his paintings, sculptures, prints and toy designs evocatively convey the contents of an unbridled imagination. At the same time, his respect for scientific accuracy-even when pondering the far-flung future or the specifics of spacey species we (or most of us, anyway) have yet to encounter-invest his work with a vivid authenticity. This vintage HEAD interview presents a very organic and down-to-earth vibe of an artist whose journey was then at an early stage.
Q: Where did you grow up? Did the place you grew up inspire your work in any way?
Mario Martinez: The place I grew up in is called Fresno, California. It inspired me to move, right after graduating from high school.
You're an enthusiastic advocate of speculation on UFOs and the possibility not only of the existence of extraterrestrial life, but of aliens having visited and perhaps influenced the evolution of Earth. Plenty of folks would dismiss this as naïveté, if not outright lunacy. How do you defend these interests?
There is quite a bit of credible information out there on the subject, available through the Freedom of Information Act. You have to be willing to research and took into the subject–that's the only way to have a clear picture of what may be taking place. Recently, for example, the former Canadian Minister of Defense asked the Parliament to hold hearings on relations with aliens and the ET civilizations. So it would not be that hard of a stretch of imagination that information regarding UFOs contains some truth. Even former American Presidents have commented on the subject–Jimmy Carter said he saw one. In time, hopefully more light will be shed on the situation. It's a topic that is easily ridiculed because it seems far out. But no need to close off your mind. There are many things taking place on Earth that are not public knowledge, and information that we are not allowed access to.
Are you as interested in the hard tech of human space travel? A lot of the excitement the topic inspires dwindles away when the scope of the challenge, and of our current technological limitations, becomes clear.
I am interested in human space travel. However, there are big hurdles to overcome regarding physical effects of spending long periods of time in space. But I think it will happen anyway. It could be the next chapter in the evolution of man. We evolved one way on Earth, and could evolve differently in space. Who is to say, it could be cool or not?
Your paintings seem to be moving away from character-centered images to sci-fi landscapes and even abstract collisions of the linear, or artificial, and the organic, or natural. What are you pursuing with this new direction?
It's a personal exploration in my work to keep growing as an artist-not getting stuck in one place, or being repetitive, as well as allowing changes to happen from my subconscious mind, slowly shifting my focus and interest over time. This allows some of my visual vocabulary to expand and unfold freely.
Have consciousness-altering substances informed your work in any way?
They opened my mind to alternate planes of reality. It expanded my way of thinking and thoughts of the abstract quality of existence, into what may lie beyond our five senses that we may not be aware of, or tapping into. It's a philosophy I try to incorporate into my work, and communicate visually.
Mario Martinez 3D Sculptures
You've done a fair bit of sculpture, but on a small, hand-held size scale. Have you considered scaling your 3D characters up to roughly the size of humans?
It is definitely something I've thought about and wanted to do for some time, but it is one of those things I have not had the opportunity to attempt. Hopefully, it's a project I will do, sooner rather than later. But on second thought, what the hell would I do with a six-foot-tall robot creature? I might have to start charging it rent or something.
Your involvement with various group efforts like the Convergence book and the Identity Crisis show suggest that art isn't an entirely solitary pursuit for you. Who are some of the artists you feel close to?
I have a close kinship to the other artists from Convergence-Damon Soule, Nome Edonna, David Chong Lee, Oliver Vernon and Bren. Amory. These are some of the artists that I feel close to, connect with and enjoy collaborating with on projects. It is much more interesting when you have friends to collaborate with, exchange ideas, get feedback and help refine each other's work, while having a good time hanging out with your friends. It is a positive experience.
Mario Martinez in Vinyl Will Kill
In the Vinyl Will Kill book, you were asked what question you'd have for your alien abductors. Let's flip that–if you could travel back to, say, medieval times, what heavy ideas would you, the impossible dude from the magic realm of "tomorrow," lay on the people you'd encounter?
I'd teach 'em how to "moon walk." If I was feeling really snazzy, I might show them the "cabbage patch" and "running man," too. Thanks, for letting me share my art with your audience. Rock on and Beyond... Mars, over and out. Visit me at MARS-1.