Martín Gutierrez: the artist in font of the camera

A year after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Martín Gutierrez is debuting his first solo exhibition at the Ryan Lee gallery in Chelsea, New York. Entitled Martin(e) the show consists entirely of works in which Martín himself is the subject: a sexed up doll in his series of photographs, a lost, glamorous beauty queen (with legs to rival any top model’s) in his films. FAULT spoke to the young artist about the story behind his provocative work and the meaning and significance of gender.


What made you decide to become an artist?

I grew up making what I wanted or didn’t have: drawing, dancing, and dressing up. But I knew art school was in the cards when I was accepted into a summer program my freshmen year of high school called the Governor’s Institute for the Arts. I had never experienced such a feeling of acceptance from strangers. I knew then I had found my people. It could have also just been destiny.

How would you describe your artistic style?

It’s something that is constantly shifting and evolving, but at the moment I would say my style is a mix of self-reflective classy sadness. I may have also just described how I have been dressing recently.


Why have you decided to work with a multitude of mediums rather than sticking to just one or two?

Working in many mediums at the same time is something I have always done; it’s also much easier for me to jump into a project by playing all the parts, rather than explaining what I want to someone else first. I think traveling between mediums has strengthened my art practice a great deal. It has made me self-sufficient in many ways, as well as hyper aware of my own authenticity when on film.

How powerful do you think art can be in changing social conventions?

Obviously art relies on its audience to create a dialogue and depending on what people are looking at it, the conversation can last over centuries. I think the boundaries of what art is are changing as art becomes more accessible and the commercial becomes more artistic.


Where do you get most of your inspiration from?

I gather inspiration from other creative acts and spaces, most recently architecture. I believe it is not enough to go through the typical motions of everyday life. There are not enough moments of surprise and awe, so I create them. Responding to public spaces through performance makes the mundane into something exciting and dramatic.

Why did you make the decision to give yourself a female name?

It is perhaps a convoluted story. In a video series and for musical performances I have been going by ‘Martin(e)’ because of its ability to be read as both genders, but I have not given myself a strictly female name. Because my name is Spanish, written with an accent over the ‘i’, it is pronounced Mar-TEEN, even though it looks like ‘Martin’. Another common mistake is when I say Mar-TEEN, people often write it as ‘Martine’. I honestly care less how people spell my name or what gender it is perceived as as long as they pronounce it correctly, but it is always confusing when someone thinks I am a French girl and finds a Spanish boy.


You’re now also a musician releasing your first EP this year. What is the importance of music in your work?

For me music completes a world, sound is so important to conveying a mood. Beginning as a dancer, music really affects my art practice and way of working, and has been fulfilling to experiment in. The EP is a collection of dark romantic tropical love songs to say the least.

Describe the role of gender in your work?

I treat gender as a fluid medium both in my personal life and in my art practice; it is undoubtedly a question in my work, but not a boundary.


What do you see as the future of “gender”? It is after all a social construction and has already undergone immense transformations.

We are already seeing the phenomenon of androgynous or transsexual models in campaigns and on the runway. The fashion world, like the art world, is always pushing the limits. I look forward to a day when the transsexual community is seen as normative by the masses. Andrej Pejic and Lea T. are the first who come to mind as current beauties in the fashion world, recognized for skewing gender boundaries.

Your work blurs gender lines – do you think there are fundamental differences between men and women?

Speaking personally as a man who knows a lot of women, I would say no. But I know a lot of women and men who disagree with me. In my experience the divide between men and women in most cases is cultural and becomes more severe with the addition of tradition and religion.


When you embody a woman in your pieces do you consider yourself a ‘drag queen’?

No, I do not consider myself to be a drag queen when embodying a woman in a piece. What it means to be a drag queen has become much more diverse, but fundamentally it is about performing a caricature of a woman, a larger than life persona. I guess you could call me a ‘fishy queen’ when enacting a female character, but it is the understated and subtle characteristics of what a woman is and does that I am captivated by, not only what she looks like.

Why did you decide to perform your own art and be your own model?

Growing up there was no one around to be in my movies or who wanted to film me, so I started using myself at an early age. Waiting to be discovered I became my own muse, finding the transformation process fulfilling and sometimes therapeutic.


Do you have an idol – creatively or otherwise?

I don’t think I can pick an idol. I’d rather not list any of whom have inspired me over the years than promote just one. But, I think Madonna has done it right.

Any exciting upcoming projects?

Only top secret projects at this point… all I can say is I need new shoes.

What is your FAULT?

Recently a palm reader told me I fall in love easily, then went on to say that my heart breaks easily. What a winning combination.

Martine – Hands Up from Martín Gutierrez on Vimeo.


Martin(e), July 11 – August 16, 2013

Ryan Lee Gallery LLC

527 West 26th Street

New York, NY 10001

212 397 0742

Words: Rebecca Unger
All images courtesy of Ryan Lee Gallery