"To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour..." So wrote William Blake in his poem Auguries of Innocence. For him, everything was more than it seemed at first glance, but most of us never take the time to really see. For Vincent van Gogh, a dusky field in rural France became his great The Starry Night painting. For Leonardo da Vinci, a business crony's wife's mysterious smirk became the Mona Lisa. Both views were familiar if not ordinary until artists divined their depths. The stylized women in Delita Martin's mixed-media works at Stella Jones Gallery seem like ordinary folks, but Martin employs layers of print, painting and collage techniques to reflect the deeper mysteries of nature and culture we all have within us. We rarely see such things except in dreams, but her best works channel those mysteries and make them visible as charismatic imagery.
"Charisma" originally referred to the spiritual aura that radiates from saints in Renaissance paintings, but Martin returns charisma to its earthly roots in works like The Light, a dynamic view of a woman who looks possessed, yet self-possessed, as ornately patterned rays shoot from her tightly coiled locks framing a face like an African spirit mask with eyes like windows into other worlds. She might be an athlete or a cop, but clearly there is more to her than a job description. How Then Shall We Remember is a head-and-shoulders view of an intense yet impassive woman sheathed in circular motifs that recall the bold patterns of tribal art, which later influenced art deco. The familiar, everyday people aspect of Martin's salt-of-the-earth subjects are like the street facades we all wear to navigate the world around us, but in works like Constellation (pictured), the broader universal context known to saints, seers and physicists suggests there is more to "everyday people" than we thought.