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Interview with Katie Bonadies, RWS Admin

Photo description: Martha Ferguson in front of her studio wall.

Martha is a sculptor, printmaker, and oil and watercolor painter. She has been at RWS since January 2022. Most of Martha's work reflects her environmental concerns (i.e., climate change) and what she calls her “emotional weather”--how she’s feeling and what she's going through–and how she can use different materials to express those emotions. Her artistic practice explores her connection to the earth, the rejuvenation she experiences in nature and her responsibility to protect the environment. The ocean and water are a huge source of inspiration for Martha, “What’s really cool about water is it’s everywhere; it circumnavigates the globe, and it’s very powerful.” Martha notes water has a personality; it can be calm and soothing, a place to feel peace and connect to the earth or it can be destructive.

Monhegan Island and Pond Cove are the local spots she likes to visit. On the wall of her studio she has a series of abstract paintings depicting the deep water horizon oil spill that were inspired by satellite images of the devastating 2010 event, “If you didn’t know what it was, it was just beautiful for the swirls and the color. Not that we should look for beauty in horrible things.”

She finds it ironic and has another series of paintings that’s concerned with global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps. She considers how its melting affects our weather that has changed so much. A friend of the family who navigates via boat for a shipping company out of Greenland can now send their ships through the polar cap. She’s interested in small things, closer to home like the bad storm we had recently and the disappearance of fall.

Deep Water Horizon II. 2018.

Oil paint on panel. 12"x12".

Frozen Histories Held Within Glacial Depths. 2022. Oil paint on panel. 10"x10".

Ice Flow. 2022. Oil paint on panel. 10"x10".

Her recent sculptures are an expression of rebuilding her life in a new place using ropes, stones, seaweed, and driftwood she collects on her daily walk along the Gulf of Maine. The fiber sculptures are only inches tall, crocheted with rope found on the beach, string, and different fibers. “I felt it was important to crochet because it’s like I was taking apart one life and reconstructing another.” She often finds the rope on her beach walks from lobster traps and fishing gear and had to untie and unknot all of the rope soaked in seawater and crusted in salt. She uses one long line of rope for each sculpture and crochets them into something else. She recently moved to Maine from Port Washington, NY and these sculptures have been part of her process of making a new life. While she crochets she thinks about her connection to her past and her new life. She considers the sculptures figures that are animated with things like crowns and wings. Some are small vessels like a reliquary basket or jar that holds precious things like rocks and dryer lint that invite the viewer to bring their own meaning to the work, but they’re not trying to be anything other than what they are and each one has its own personality. She’s currently experimenting with how to display them and has some perched upon stacked flat beach stones or housed within thick frames.

Figure with Crown. 2022. Nylon cord and found rope. 7"x4"x3".

Apple of My Eye. 2021. Oyster shell, found wire and rope. 3"x5"x4".

Figure with Blue Wings. 2022. Nylon cord and found rope. 7"x4"x3".

Martha was the baby of the family and was often left to her own devices while her parents and siblings were busy doing their own things. She spent her time at a bench in the garden figuring out how to make mud pies. This was the beginning of her sculptural ideas. She looks back now and thinks how wonderful it was that she didn’t have a mother who didn’t want Martha getting her pants dirty in the garden, “Having that creative freedom as a young child, I knew that was going to be important for me.” She loves working with her hands because nothing else is as adept at manipulating things and transferring the energy. Martha likes to work with her door open so that she can hear the buzz of what’s going on in the studios. She invites her studio mates to come in and say ‘hello’.


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