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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank and Rock n Roll Rentals.

'It makes me proud and emotional': Eddie Martinez's paintings honor migrant farm workers

A selection from Batalla Pa’delante or Struggle to Strive
Eddie Martinez
A selection from Batalla Pa’delante or Struggle to Strive

This month, artist Eddie Martinez is putting the finishing touches on the paintings that will make up Batalla Pa’delante or Struggle to Strive, his first-ever solo exhibition. It’s a collection of paintings that tells the story of Martinez’s life. “It is kind of a memoir and autobiography,” he says, “because I'm taking actual family photos… I'm a multigenerational migrant farm worker and I'm taking actual family photos and I'm turning them into paintings. So the paintings that people will see at my show are going to be actual photos… of my actual family growing up as a migrant farm worker. The oldest picture I have is from my great grandparents and they're standing in front of a pecan field. And then there's a few paintings where I'm part of the picture, part of the painting. So it's great grandparents, my grandparents and then my generation, which was the last generation to actually go and work in this field.”


Martinez is sharing his family’s story with Batalla Pa’delante, but he says it wasn’t until he started creating the work that he realized how much his family wanted to share. “The cool thing about this art show is my family is starting to show that they want their story told,” he says. “This was just my idea. I kept it to myself. And then once I finally expressed it out loud and I wrote this grant and thankfully, I was gifted this money to hold the solo art exhibition. And I communicated that to my family. They became extremely interested and I started getting phone calls and emails and text messages from family [members] that I really don't talk to. And they were just expressing their experiences – what type of tools they use, funny stories and people. What I'm learning is that my family wants their story told. I started this art show with just my own art career in mind, but it grew into something bigger where this community of migrant farm workers wants their story told, wants people to understand that we're here. We're still here. And it's an important thing to communicate to people.”


Batalla Pa’delante tells the story of a family’s work as migrant farm workers, but it also tells a story about Martinez’s journey and evolution as an artist. “Honestly, it brings me a lot of emotion because I'm looking at old pictures of my family and just bringing back all these memories,” he says. “I've painted a picture of my grandfather who recently passed away and it just brings up so much emotion and it makes me feel orgullo, which means it makes me feel proud. And I've also noticed I'm getting better at painting every painting that I'm making. And I love how it just developed organically and I'm going with it, the majority of my paintings that you will see in Batalla Pa’delante, a lot of them are going to be in the style of realism. And if you do come to my show, which I hope people do, you can kind of see the development of my skill because the first painting I did was very loose. I guess you can see two journeys – my personal story, my personal journey as a migrant farm worker and my journey as an artist.”


Creating Batalla Pa’delante has been an emotional experience for the artist. “It makes me proud and emotional just because I'm revisiting all these old memories and I'm also improving myself as an artist,” Martinez says. “There is a lot to process, but it's an amazing journey and I'm soaking it in because this is my first time ever holding a solo art exhibition. And I just want to take every moment, every emotion, every struggle. And I want to just hold it close and dear to me because this is a really cool experience that I'm really grateful for and I'm just trying to soak in everything as much as I can. Also, I just want to highlight the human experience of a migrant farm worker through my personal story. I want people to show up and talk to migrant farm workers at my show and talk about their struggles. And also just humanize these people, make people understand there's a link between your food and a person in the field picking your food. I'm hoping to bring conscious consumership. I want people to understand that they shouldn't take things for granted. There's people behind all of these services to be conscious of. And maybe if you see or if you hear or if you meet a migrant farm worker, express yourself of how grateful you are for the job that they do.”

'Batalla Pa’delante or Struggle to Strive' will be on display March 23 at Almost Real Things HQ.

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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