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Drawn and Sewn: Stitching My Life as an Artist

Guest blog by Delita Martin

There are always tough decisions to make when pursuing your passion. The road is full of bumps, detours and roadblocks – not a journey to be taken lightly. The path to leaving my day job to become a professional artist didn’t start with me jumping over the big “life decision” cliff. I began with figuring out what being a professional artist would mean to me and what sacrifices I would have to make.

After much deliberation, I made the choice to solely base my income on my artistic ability and passion for creating. Although I made this decision about three years ago, I have considered myself an artist since I was a child. Growing up, I was fortunate to have support from my family, who nurtured my growth in the arts. I graduated from Texas Southern University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing, and eventually I went on to obtain a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking from Purdue University. Throughout my studies, I held jobs that were related and unrelated to the art world while still creating my own work. Ultimately, I felt that I had an obligation to follow my passion as a full-time professional artist.

So back to my big “life decision” cliff. I wish I could say that I just jumped off the cliff into this new world. The reality is that I waded into the shallow end of the ocean and just kept swimming. During recent years of my professional career, I have achieved many of my goals, fostering my professional metamorphosis and the evolution of my work.

My most recent body of work – “I Come from Women Who Could Fly” – is the latest apex in my growth as an artist. In this body of work, I wanted to convey the impact of my experiences with the storytellers and the quilt makers who surrounded me as a child. They created a world of magical realism that began my journey as an artist. The exchange of stories, history and quilting created a world that nurtured the artist I am today. Throughout the work I used various printmaking, drawing and painting techniques. I have carefully sewn these layers together to recount the stories told to me as a child and tell the stories of these remarkable women.

“Night Stands Softy” – 53 x 85.5 (2013)

Each hand-sewn layer symbolizes and embodies complex histories, the strength of women and the soul connections between our past and present that are deeply rooted in oral storytelling and quilting traditions. With each stitch, I have pieced together my life as an artist and the realization of my creativity.

“She Wears Constellations in Hair” – 52 x 74.5 (2013)

“Sisters” – 47.5 x 74.5 (2013)

“I Come from Women Who Could Fly” will be on exhibit at the Arts & Science Center for Southest Arkansas in Pine Bluff through Aug. 31. Other prints are available at ESSE Purse Museum in Little Rock.

Inviting Arkansas

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