Growing up on the Texas coast, Martha Gannon was a physical young woman, always running from tennis to surfing. So when the time came to decide what she would do career wise, it made sense to choose a physical career in lieu of something sedate behind a desk. Working with large pieces of metal as a sculptor? Done.
Gannon studied art at the University of Texas, earning her masters degree in studio art with a specialization in sculpture in 1990. She taught sculpture and design through the 1990s at the Art Institute of Chicago and returned to Austin in 1999. “Moving back to Texas was a time of reflection for me,” she says. “The natural landscape was something that was missing from my nine years in Chicago. Coming back, I realized how landscape was so vitally important to my work and who I am as an artist.”
Gannon’s oil paintings often portray animals – rabbits for instance – engaging with one another in humanistic activities. Like a lot of art, the pieces are multidimensional offering different possible interpretations as the viewer examines them more carefully, picking up more subtle elements.
Accessibility in art is something that’s important to Gannon. “I want my work to feel accessible to anyone who looks at it – for them to get their own enjoyment out of it, to be drawn in and let them interpret it for themselves.”
Gannon’s works are on display in the SBC Center in San Antonio, the Austin Museum of Art and the offices of the Lower Colorado River authority, just to name a few in Central Texas. In addition to her painting and sculpture work – much of which is commission based – Gannon also designs architectural accessories. Some of that work is on a large scale, such as the metal work in the shops at the Art Institute in Chicago and metal exhibit displays at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington.
When she was young, Gannon’s aunt and uncle had a ranch out in West Texas where she would spend long, meandering summers. Today she has a studio in Marfa, which in many ways is a throwback to those idyllic times. “I love the solitude of being out here and working,” she says. “The lighting, the landscape, it all works. I feel a spiritual connection to this place.”
Gannon says certainly her sexuality informs her work, but perhaps in a different way than people might typically think. “I guess for me my sexuality has a constant presence in conscious as well as subconscious forms in and through the art,” Gannon says. “My work is often dictated by personal memories, experiences and emotions rather than political issues of sexuality.”
She’s shown her works nationally and even internationally in Spain and Hungary and Gannon says she’s happy with where she’s at in the art world. “I’m absolutely doing what I want to be doing. I’m always looking for the next adventure in my career, and that’s how I see every day – as an adventure. My goal is to keep showing, doing more shows and hopefully more public artwork.”
On that last point, the artist points out that the funding that comes with public commissions often allows for experimentation with new technologies and materials that wouldn’t be possible for artists on their own. “It gives you a chance to be more innovative and creative,” she says.