Interview: Lily Mae Martin
If a lot can be told about a creative by their studio, artist Lily Mae Martin’s decidedly feminine space speaks volumes.
Located at the back of her property in Preston, the converted garage is a virtual candy land of artistic ephemera; a collection of old box brownie cameras, canvases, reference books and rough sketches sit next to a prized collection of old photographs, carefully collected from flea markets, fetes and fairs across the globe.
“I love old cameras and I love old books,” Martin begins to explain as we take shelter in her workspace, avoiding a sudden downpour outside.
“And I love collecting old photographs. Wherever we travel I go and collect old photographs. Some of those are very fancy ones,” she says as she gestures to the fading pictures she has chosen to fill her space with.
“Though it’s not the fancy ones that I’m drawn to specifically, it’s when you’re in markets and you come across big boxes [of pictures] and it’s someone’s whole life. It makes me feel a bit sad. I’ve got so many photographs of mamas and their little kids, and of nuns. I’m really drawn to nuns.”
It is this dichotomy between traditional feminine roles and the objectification of women in art that has possibly played the greatest influence on Martin’s work to date, a collection of paintings and sketches focussing on the nude female form, with an emphasis on pregnancy and the gestating body.
Working across the fine arts, Lily Mae has been drawing for her entire life, but only began painting while she was in VCE.
Lily Mae: “Female nudes are important to me because, even though most of art is based around women being nude, I feel like it’s still quite devoid of the female experience. That’s what I’m trying to capture, that’s why in recent years drawing and painting women in pregnancy and after has been quite important. And it’s not just the male gaze. Because most of the art that is referenced is by men, women do it too. That’s the way that we’ve grown up to view the female figure, so I really want to capture all the bits and pieces in my work. "
A finalist in the 2014 Benalla Nude Art Prize, Martin admits that it can be hard to avoid objectifying her subjects.
Lily Mae: “People always talk about people in art always being objectified and it has such a negative connotation, but sometimes I see people and all I can think about is painting their cheekbones or drawing their hair.”
But it isn’t just about contributing to the reboot of how society thinks about women in art – plenty of her own experience as a person and as a mother funnels from her paint brush and on to the canvas. With experience and with time, the artist has enjoyed developing the ability to convey hers as a universal portrait representing the ‘other’ as much as it tells the story of her ‘self’.
Lily Mae: “There’s a very therapeutic and cathartic aspect to my work but I think, as I have grown along with my work, I’m able to talk about it and explore…in a broader sense. It’s not such a personal thing anymore.”
Lily Mae Martin is represented by Scott Livesey Galleries