The Relentless Urge to Create: the Work of Earl Joseph Martellcomments (29) March 11th, 2011
Let's start by just looking at some very interesting, very evocative, and very beautiful photographs. Whatever your taste in Art (with a capital "A"), I hope you will agree with me that as exuberant expressions of color, shape, and texture, these images are, at the very least, extraordinary.
Were you to set to guessing what they are (and what they are made of), you would be excused for guessing modern art, close-up photos of enamel jewelry, aerial photographs of ice floes and mineral deposits, microscopic snapshots of viruses, or pictures of interstellar galaxies. What you likely wouldn't guess is that they are pictures taken at a Home Depot by an accomplished landscape painter who usually works in the tradition of mid-19th century artists such as Monet and Renoir.
Epiphanies come in many sizes and, if contemporary films are to be believed, they almost always occur beneath the groin vaults of a gothic cathedral, on a wind-swept stretch of New England coastline, or—on the rarest of occasions—across a crowded room; in my case an epiphany occurred in a suburban New Jersey Home Depot on a mundane Wednesday four weeks ago and I'm still reeling from the experience. What the moment lacked in cinematic scope, it made up for by its crystalline intensity. We have all had a moment when we perhaps thought to ourselves, "This is a moment I will remember; this is important, this means something." Well, I had exactly that sort of moment at Home Depot, and I've been unable to stop talking about it ever since. My friends are now so tired of hearing me proselytize that they have begun to jokingly refer to it as "the singularity" but their ribbing is not far off the fact.
Here's what happened: I was in Home Depot buying a can of high-gloss paint in a hue the Behr color swatch labeled "Bitter Chocolate." As with most paints, the hue had to be custom mixed, and so I was standing watching the Home Depot associate at the paint department counter—a man by the name of Earl Joseph Martell—go through the steps required to produce my specified hue: He grabbed a can of white, high-gloss base paint from a shelf, removed the lid, and placed it beneath the pigment-dispensing spigots of the color machine. He then proceeded to enter the code for the paint formula into the computer —punch, punch, punch, enter—and the machine dispensed the hues necessary to create the shade I had ordered. Then Earl did something I wasn't expecting: He pulled a small, digital camera from his pocket and snapped a quick picture of the can of paint before replacing the lid and proceeding to the paint-mixing machine to give it a thorough shaking.
The photograph, done with practiced percision, took less than five seconds to do and was managed with such nonchalance that I'm certain none of the other customers at the counter with me that day even noticed it. I, on the other hand, recognized in an instant what it was I had just seen: I had witnessed the relentless urge to create, and in that moment I recognized the driving force of my own life and that of so many creative people I know and work with.
Consider for a moment the average painter: He or she selects a subject (figurative or abstract), selects a palette, a brush for applying the paint, then proceeds with that application using a technique or style of their choosing. When the work is finished it is exhibited, admired, discussed ("what subtle color," "what meaningful brushstrokes") and eventually purchased (at a price based on perceived value) after which is it hung on a wall and admired and protected while it hopefully appreciates in value.