Artist Spotlight: Ernel Martinez

December 8, 2016

Our work finds inspiration from the collective history, memory, and narratives of the communities that have been marginalized and systematically oppressed. This creative process manifests itself in the cross-sectional spaces where art intervention, activism, and community engagement merges. These collaborations speak on issues of race, class, and the void of power in these communities of color…“- Ernel Martinez 

Ernel Martinez was born in Belize. He was raised in South Central Los Angeles and Detroit. His introduction to the art world came in the form of graffiti. He studied art at Pratt Institute and attainted his BFA from the Kutztown University. In 2004, he received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2003, Ernel began making public art in the city of Philadelphia, as well as working with various non-profits and social services to provide art to disenfranchised youth. His artistic practice focuses on creative methods to give urban communities the tools to tell their stories through art making. He uses their stories as a framework to produce social practice artwork to engage and build dialogue. His work with Keir Johnston, Dreamland Deferred: Legacy of Silence (2013) is on display in the gallery (pictured above). Amber Art performed the powerful piece Push/Pull: The Weight in the gallery (detail pictured below) on December 2, 2016, which referenced the race riots and bombings in Tulsa, OK in 1921. The sculpture created by the performance is now on view in the gallery as well.  

About Terry, Martinez says, “Amber Art look to evoke a cultural and social dialog around historical inequities of the missing black voice, especially in creative institutions, by focusing on the significant historical sites. Our creative collaborations have been incredibly influenced by Terry’s work. Our use of history, research, mix-media, and collaborations comes directly from my time spent studying under Terry Adkins here at Penn.”