From the Ground Up

untitled, natural earth pigment on canvas, 46” x 134”, 2016

The Capital City Arts Initiative [CCAI] presents its exhibition, "From the Ground Up," by artist Gil Martin at the CCAI Courthouse Gallery. CCAI will host a reception for the artist on Friday, February 3, 5-7pm; Martin will give a talk about his work at 5:30pm. The exhibit will be in the gallery from February 3 – May 24, 2017.

The Courthouse is located at 885 E Musser Street, Carson City. The reception and the exhibition are free and the public is cordially invited. The gallery is open to the public Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm.

Martin said that when he was first studying painting, an artist friend gave him a box of art materials and assorted tools that she no longer needed. In that box was a book on how to make paint from earth pigments. It sat around his studio for years until one day he picked it up and started reading. His interest piqued, he started driving around looking for colored dirt from road cuts.

For over 20 years he has made his own paint from natural earth pigments that he digs up from various sources in the western United States. He uses a starch paste made from corn meal as a binder and adds water to create a more or less viscous paint.

Martin describes his process: “I like to work my pieces outside, both on the ground and tacked to a wall. The paint pools up in the small depressions and flows over uneven surfaces of canvas and paper laid on the ground or drips down in furrows on the pinned pieces. There is always an element of chance to the painting process. The material speaks and I then react to the needs of the painting.”

His latest body of work has unmistakable references to Western landscapes. He neither foster those images, nor eschew them. They mainly come about by working horizontal bands of color against one another until the painting unifies. His goal is to create a provocative visual experience, first for himself, then, hopefully, for other viewers. 

Martin earned B.A. degrees in Art History and English Literature at the University of Washington. Later he studied painting under Richard Pousette-Dart at the Art Students League in New York and with Frank Okada and Ron Graff at the University of Oregon where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting in 1994. Martin has received Visiting Artist Fellowships at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, Hambidge Center for the Arts, Yangzhou University (People’s Republic of China) in 1999, and at the Morris Graves Foundation.

Martin has shown his art at the Work Place Gallery, Portland, Oregon; Kiang Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia; and St. Mary’s Art Center, Virginia City, Nevada. He teaches painting and drawing at Western Nevada College in Fallon and lives in Fallon, Nevada. See more of Martin’s art online at

Chérie Louise Turner wrote the essay, Plain Ole Dirt? for Martin’s exhibition. She is a Bay Area–based freelance writer, art critic, and copy editor. Her writing has appeared online at Art in America, The Huffington Post, Visual Art Source, art ltd, ArtNewsletter, ArtNews, and Tahoe Quarterly, among other publications. She has written exhibition catalog essays locally for Stremmel Gallery, Churchill Arts Council, and CCAI. She also produces an art-focused blog: She has written four teen nonfiction books including: Extreme Careers: Life as an Adventure Travel Guide (Rosen Publishing Group, 2003); Everything You Need to Know About the Riot Grrrl Movement (Rosen Publishing Group, 2001). Turner earned a Copyediting Certification from the University of California, San Diego, in 2013 and a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1992.
During the exhibition, Mr. Martin will give a talk about his work to art students at Dayton High School in Dayton, and at Carson High School in Carson City.

CCAI has a companion exhibition of Martin’s, Smaller Works, in the Community Center’s Sierra Room, 851 E William Street, Carson City. This show will be open from March 1 – July 6, 2017 during all public meetings and on Fridays, noon – 4pm.

The Capital City Arts Initiative is an artist-centered organization committed to the encouragement and support of artists and the arts and culture of Carson City and the surrounding region. The Initiative is committed to community building for the area's diverse adult and youth populations through art projects and exhibitions, live events, arts education programs, artist residencies, and online projects.

The Capital City Arts Initiative [CCAI] is funded in part the Nevada Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, City of Carson City, Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation, U.S. Bank Foundation, and John and Grace Nauman Foundation.

For additional information, please visit CCAI’s website at