Artist Interviews 2022
By Julia Siedenburg
Martin Ledyard is one of those great artists whose work becomes more and more alive the longer you look at it. He is a true master of his craft and his work perfectly reflects how in tune he is with nature and his surroundings. Whether it is a bird, a standing man, or simply a portrait of a friend, every subject of his seems to be part of something bigger; a puzzle piece. Fragments of a world that the viewer interprets based on their imagination. Or it can be simply taken for what it is: Fascinating work of art. I had the pleasure to meet Martin and his lovely wife who also happens to be an artist and I am very happy that we have him in this issue. So, dear reader, please enjoy diving into Martin’s mind and learning more about his work.
How would you personally describe your style?
Walk through the world and you will experience things revealed as gifts; light, smells, sounds and thought. They can come in bursts or as slow revelations, layered on layer, planning their own resolution or reversing course at the last second to reveal something unexpected. When I work, I generally hang media, (ink, paint, wood, metal) on the scaffold of a figure. The figure can be primitive and featureless as in Standing Man or more specific as in a charcoal portrait of a friend. The medium unfolds and offers its own insights, and something that was never there takes form and exists. Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it goes in the bin. Or sometimes it is torn, painted over, washed away, recording its own evolution in the tracks on surface.
Your most iconic subjects are the “ Standing Man” figures with relatively featureless faces. May it be as differently shaped sculptures in bronze, life-sized wire statues, or painted on paper with and sometimes without colors. And all completely uniquely shaped.
What inspired you to create these and how do you choose the materials you will use?
Standing Man, Standingman, Standing Woman, Standing Figure all birth from the same source. It has something to do with the resolve of the human figure and its underpinnings of impermanence vs. hope. The figure is really just a place to think about what it means to be vertical in a world where gravity is just one of many powerful bosses. Your use of the word icon is interesting because the sense of archetype or Everyhuman is never far from my fingertips when these people are conjured. They live in a place where light renders contour imperfectly and atmosphere mocks proportion. The media are really just there as a means to crack the door.
I am so fascinated by your piece of the black-haired woman looking to the side, called “1983 Jill Savini”.
Even though she is the only subject in this piece and kept rather minimalistic, it’s not missing anything. On the contrary, the way she is positioned and shaded conveys so much emotion. There is something very unique about her and I am dying to know what her story is.
Who is she and how did you get the idea to do this piece?
I wish I could make up some wild story, but Jill was a good friend at the time and willing to pose for portraits. The sessions were built around photographs, several yielded great results. Other friends from those days posed and some are still being worked on today.
Another series of yours that really interests me is the one with the notes and dimensions in the background of your drawings. Please tell me more about them. What are those notes and dimensions and do you choose the subject or the text first?
The notes and dimensions are often made to keep another adjacent piece on track, since there are always different projects going on. Sometimes the notes are used to talk about something a piece has suggested along the way, sometimes observation, a rant, and then nothing more than a means to scuff the surface of the paper/canvas and give texture to a suggested landscape.
What is your process like? How do you get inspired and how long does it take till the finished product?
Sometimes a material or ground will suggest a subject, sometimes I have a clear beginning point or idea from an internal vision or external stimulus. Either way, the process can be over in the time it takes to simply lay down the medium in one move, or it can go on through endless false starts— erasures, washes, overpainting and evolution of form and idea.
Tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing. Was art a part of your life since a young age?
I grew up in the big city, Dallas Texas. I had a unique exposure to some of the greatest art assembled in a city that was self-conscious about being a Cow Town and fortunate to have the will to look outward. A culture of hunting and the outdoors was a strange backstory to my early experience, only some of which was tempered by television and pop culture. My life was rich in old people and characters who were powerful in opening my eyes to the best and worst in our collective humanity.
Besides the pieces described above, you also have created beautiful caricature sketch scenes as well as artworks of different types of birds (crows, chickens). What inspires you to create these pieces?
The outdoors have always had hold on me— animals, birds, trees are saddled with most of what we have to deal with as people. I can’t ignore the strut of a crow, the proud, twisted armature of a skate’s embryo case or a chicken imitating a poplar on a windy day.
Art can be therapeutic, emotional, life-changing, and eye-opening. Related to the current world events regarding the wars and movements that have been forming, how much power do you feel art can have in times like these, and why do you feel that way?
If artwork makes the viewer stop, think and form an idea that wasn’t there before, it is on the way to being successful. We can share an emotion with the subject or effect of technique, and reinvest in the experience that all people live through every day. Massive struggles coupled with the tiny miracles and moments that repeat and rhyme in the world. It’s all there to see, acknowledge and accept.
We had the pleasure to not only meet you at the last The Other Art fair but also your talented wife Julia, who was showcasing her art a few booths down from you. Do you both enjoy showing your work at art fairs? Do you always showcase your work at the same events?
We have worked together for years, and the competition, cooperation and mutual inspiration are always there, 24-7. It is exhilarating to watch her creative process and working art fairs in tandem is a natural extension of our work.
What is next for you? What plans do you have for your art in the future?
My plan is more, only that. Keep making something out of nothing.