Artist Biography

Oscar Luis Martínez resides in Chicago, Illinois. After four years of studying science and art at the University of Illinois in Champaign, he received a Bachelor of Science in Medical Art from the University of Illinois Medical Center in 1977.  Mr. Martínez is an accomplished artist who has had numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Southeastern and Midwest regions of the United States. Among his many credits, his work has been shown at the Museum of Bellas Artes and the National Historical Museum in Mexico, the Des Plaines Museum in Illinois, NIU Museum’s Gallery in Chicago, the Field Museum of Chicago, the State of Illinois Museum in Springfield, and the State of Illinois Museum's gallery in Chicago at the State of Illinois Building.  Additionally, his work has been featured on various television shows and published in newspapers and magazines.  

Martínez was actively involved in the Chicago mural movement and has painted numerous murals throughout the city, including one that is considered a historical landmark at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Mayor of Chicago appointed Mr. Martinez to judge the international Design/Build competition for the Chicago Public Library and to contribute to the selection of the library's art collection.  The Governor of the State of Illinois appointed him to the Illinois Arts Council where he served as Chair of Media Arts.  Oscar Luis Martínez is an alumnus of Leadership Greater Chicago, Faculty Emeritus of the University of Illinois in Chicago has served on various boards and commissions and held the position of President of the Latino Institute of Chicago.  In 2005, he served as Artist in Residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently director of Oscar Luis Martínez Fine Art and the founder of the National Puerto Rican Museum of Art in Chicago.


Artist Statement

I reside in Chicago and it is a very diverse city with many ethnic communities. Chicago makes my experiences rich and as a result of this, it has been important in my artistic development. As a Puerto Rican artist, I feel like I am living in a foreign environment, this experience influences my ideas and the development of my artwork. My home, which is now underwater as a result of a dam that was built there, the dam left me without a home. I cannot return to where I was born and at times it makes me feel like I do not belong anywhere and at times everywhere. Nevertheless, my artwork relies on the many memories of home and my tropical paradise that continues to live in my imagination.

I work in an international community of contemporary artists where it has been difficult for Latino artists to receive the same recognition as other artists. Even though these barriers have subsided, I always wanted to be appreciated and recognized on my artistic merits. There are remaining barriers between being view beyond in the broader framework of my national heritage. I have a commitment to my heritage/culture and this will not change. By exposing my fears, dreams, and aspirations, I can explore my inner self. It is full of myths, spirituality, and rituals, juxtaposed against barriers, misunderstandings, and political upheaval.

Mysticism and goddesses populate my canvases. This is especially in my series titled "Metamorphosis, Genesis Paradigm" and also Resemblances. In them, I explore the contrasts of light and dark to create tension and a sense of mystery.

The mysterious, inaccessible figures, echoing the mythological in pursuit of perfect form, transmit my fascination with reality's multiple dimensions. The isolated presences symbolize the courageous illusions of the human mind, whose changing perceptions and conventions provide my narratives. The current series of paintings includes Resemblance series which are Self-portraits thru the eyes and presences of individuals in my life. In "The Puerto Ricans series," this new work involves turmoil, movement, stillness, decay, and hope. Idealized images suggest further distortions of reality and how we perceive ourselves. These paintings emphasize the elusive truths of idealized distortions as well as the order that exists within chaos. It is my conviction that the value of art relies on its power to reveal our inner world. My images are an outgrowth of the Puerto Rican experiences that combines spiritual concerns and secular ones. I use passionate expressionism, turned inward, become the implacable instrument of my self-exploration. They are memories of a place of origin, which take me to paradisiac landscapes and oneiric spaces where time does not exist and only the stillness of silence allows me to explore my ideas. I invite the viewer to revisit memories, which are entangled in nude bodies with indigenous symbols that descend into nature and are surrounded by the colors of my tropical home called Maraguez. 

My work is a complex, vibrantly layered combination of abstract and figurative forms, which incorporates my memories. Also, my work involves an obsessive pursuit of the fabrications of my imagination and subconscious in the images I use. A magical intersection of fantasy and reality occurs in the chimerical figures that inhabit my canvases. Their shimmering, other-worldly presences emerge from "carvings" where multilayers are carved out to reveal layers of color to define the figure. in addition, many of the backgrounds are an abstract representation of the environment I am creating.

I employ a highly personal, metaphoric language to express a vision of reality's many facets. It is a belief in the primacy of my imagination, in its power and freedom to reinterpret and reinvent my reality.

In addition, my work involves an obsessive pursuit of the fabrications of my imagination and subconscious in the images I use. A magical intersection of fantasy and reality occurs in the chimerical figures that inhabit my canvases. Their shimmering, other-worldly presences emerge from "carvings" where multilayers are carved out to reveal layers of color to define the figure.

I employ a highly personal, metaphoric language to express a vision of reality's many facets. It is a belief in the primacy of my imagination, in its power and freedom to reinterpret and reinvent my reality.