When Cecilia Martinez’s father was assaulted in downtown Jersey City in 2015 — and later died — she thought she could make peace with her loss through her writing. But she found that words didn’t do it for her.
Her father, Rafael, was found on the ground downtown with a head injury. He spent three months in a hospital unable to talk, walk, stand or even breathe without help. When he died, Cecilia was at his side.
Although the death was ruled a homicide, Raphael’s attacker was never charged with that crime, for lack of evidence. Cecilia had to live with both the loss and the lack of resolution.
She was depressed and anxious, but even though she was a writer, she could not work these feelings out expressing herself in language.
“It was traumatic and confusing,” she said. “I was angry and filled with all kinds of bad emotions. I tried to sit down and write about it, but I couldn’t put it words. I found it difficult to express my thoughts. This surprised me, because I was always able to get what was going on inside of me out.”
A graduate of New Jersey City University, she had started out as an English major.
“At first I thought I would become a teacher, but then I thought about teaching high school, and decided I wasn’t going to do that. I went into journalism instead,” she said.
Since childhood, she always envisioned herself becoming “a famous writer.” She made headway as a freelance writer and as a former editor of the The Bayonne Community News. She interviewed and wrote about a number of famous musicians. She had her poetry published in literary journals. Her writing also won a number of awards.
“Everything I do has a little piece of myself in it.” — Cecilia Martinez
A deeper art form
But when it came to dealing with her father’s death, she needed another vehicle to heal her soul. Her father was a visual artist, and so she thought she would try that.
“One day, I started to draw something, a piece dedicated to my dad – one that I don’t show and never will sell,” she said. “I felt a calmness come into me. I was able to let my mind focus and slow down as the pieces came together.”
She began explore a number of subjects in what she called “spiritual art.”
Over time, her art evolved from spiritual to other subjects, allowing her to experiment with a number of media, although she tends to like acrylic paint, collages, and drawing with a graphite pencil.
Although she is a self-taught artist, Cecilia’s work has caught on with the public. She has been displayed in more than 30 venues in group shows in Jersey City and elsewhere, and she has also sold many of the works she displayed.
A painting she did of Janis Joplin that was on display in a show in Jersey City City Hall earlier this year was sold. So were several works she submitted for sale at The Art House Snow Ball last January.
“I love Janis, and felt a connection with her,” she said. “She was a wonderful kind of artist, but with a tragic life, yet was able to inspire so many others despite her own demons. I did the piece as a tribute to her.”
Many of her works involve women. “Everything I do has a little piece of myself in it,” she said.
She says she wants to do things out of the norm, things not done before.
“I love art that is real, tells a story and is brutally honest,” she said
While she likes artists like Frida Kahlo, her father remains her biggest influence. Nearly every work she does is for him.
Of course, this passion for fine art has its drawbacks. She hasn’t been writing, something she also wants to get back to.
“It’s hard to do when I’m putting all my creative energy into painting,” she said. “But I miss writing and want to combine both.”
Cecelia will have her first solo show at Tea NJ, “Vegan Friendly Café,” 262 Newark Ave., Jersey City, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15, with an opening reception on Aug. 3 from 6 to 11 p.m.
The show, she said will include about 20 pieces, some of them self portraits she calls “Artistic Abortions.” The show will include other types of art, for a total of about 20 pieces.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.