Artist Portfolio: Martha Young

Photographs Luisa Porter, Birney Imes & Matt Garner

IN HER OWN WORDS — As far back as I can remember, I always had a crayon in my hand. When guests were coming, I would do pastel drawings on my blackboard and place it on the front porch to greet them. Of course, I was there, too, anxiously awaiting the praise. 

Art classes began at age 10. I fell in love with painting when I changed my style to impressionism. Taking an ordinary subject, breaking all the academic rules and conveying my message by using different techniques rather than worrying about details. This allows the viewer to take part in the interpretation.

My biggest painting influence came from doing design work in advertising for West Point Pepperell. Fifteen years in New York working with creative people has to be good. Going to the museums, taking a class from Peter Fatano, “the master of faux finishes,” working with glazing techniques and learning to gild pushed me just another step forward. I would always leave inspired, wanting to paint as soon as I arrived home.

When I moved to Columbus, I was surprised no one there could gild. I quickly became Dr. Gold Leaf, carrying my satchel of supplies into the antebellum homes to repair the huge mirrors and portrait frames too large to be shipped to New Orleans.

I lived in Columbus for 25 years. As an artist, I immediately became involved in the art scene working as a member on the board of the Columbus Arts Council. To draw attention to a show I had in the Rosenzweig Arts Center in 2007, we placed in the front window a 15-foot-long folding screen I had painted. A lady, who had lost most of her art in Katrina and was staying in town, purchased the screen. The Commercial Dispatch newspaper publisher Birney Imes came in to buy it and found it had been sold. He was sick about it and remarked, “I just never dreamed anyone would buy a screen as long as a Mack truck.”  So he asked if I would paint a similar one on the wall of The Dispatch office. Look hard at it, you may see some characters from Columbus, maybe Mother Goose.

Bob and Amy Buckley were two of my biggest supporters. When they purchased their house on the river, Amy wanted a wall mural of cranes. She had become fascinated watching them. I spent weeks researching, doing sketch after sketch. Relief came when Bob asked, “This is going to be a Martha Young, isn’t it?”

Loving the freedom that implied, I threw away the drawing and immediately started painting cranes carrying pink umbrellas and riding gothic dolphins. Much more fun.

I paint mostly by commission now and give private lessons in bridge. My heart often longs for the town of Columbus and all the wonderful people there. Columbus will always have a special place in my heart.

I think I am going to cry now.