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Artist at work
Film maker Max Meyer chronicles artist Donald Martiny at One World Trade Center
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
This past Fall, Max Meyer spent time in between his obligations as the Director of Children’s Education at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art driving 10 hours to an aunt and uncle’s house in Bayside, Queens. From there, he’d take a half-hour train ride into Penn Station, then spend another 20 minutes or so on the subway, all with around 150 lbs of film equipment in tow.
His journey wasn’t over yet. The next stage involved a 15 minute walk — still carrying the gear — followed by a lengthy security check when he finally arrived at his destination, the newly opened One World Trade Center.
And only then did Meyer’s working day really begin.
Meyer was there to film artist Donald Martiny as he created two permanent commissioned pieces for a lobby in One World Trade Center. Meyer made four of these trips during the past few months, each visit lasting between two and four days, and was there at Martiny’s invitation. The film is a private project, made under the auspices of Meyer’s production company (Maximillian Studio) and separately from his regular gig at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. “This is easily the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my professional life,” Meyer says. “My grandmother worked at the World Trade Center for 20 years, retired in 2000. I was born in New York state, so to have this experience of watching Martiny work in this space is pretty incredible.”
Meyer’s admiration for Martiny and his work really comes through in the short film Meyer just released. The two first met in 2014, when Joslyn Elliott — Meyer’s wife and the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art — was contacted by Martiny and arranged a show at the museum. Martiny had a long and distinguished career in advertising before turning his attention to his art; he designed the logo for Tropicana and the Lancome Rose, among others. But his show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in the summer of 2014 was Martiny’s first museum exhibit. As he often does, Meyer shot an interview with the artist when he came to Fort Wayne. “I’ve done quite a few films,” says Meyer. “I try tell the story from the artist’s perspective, to show the message and purpose to why they’re creating their work.”
Shortly after the show in Fort Wayne, Martiny saw an upsurge of interest in his work, including a commission to create a couple pieces permanently installed for the ground floor lobby in One World Trade Center used by the likes of Conde Nast. Meyer had kept in touch with Martiny, and last summer asked the artist if he could film him at work while he actually created one of his pieces. “He said ‘sure. How about the World Trade Center?’ and I said ‘hell yes!’”
Martiny’s work features massive, broad brush strokes of vivid color. “Sometimes he uses his hands, sometimes he uses brushes made of old sweaters or mops,” Meyer says. “It’s really all about the paint and the color.” Meyer goes on to describe the work as “breaking the rectangle,” and there is something about Martiny’s pieces that seems to actively engage the viewer, bubbling out of the canvas and capturing attention.
As you can see in Meyer’s film, Martiny’s works are particularly striking in the context of the One World Trade Center lobby, a place of clean, even lines. The pieces seemed to simultaneously complement and contrast the space. “Looking at the work among all of these light, clean lines, the pieces just jump off the wall,” Meyer says. “(Martiny) doesn’t use straight lines; he’s a sweeping, dynamic visual artist. You look at these vivid, 15’ brush strokes in this space, in this building, and the overwhelming feeling is that human being are capable of incredible things.”
Although Meyer’s project has been going on for several months, he was under a “hush order” until just recently (and based on a few brief comments Meyer makes during our talk, getting permission to film in One World Trade Center sounds like it might make an interesting documentary in and of itself). Now, the short film — it clocks in at under 6 minutes — is finished and ready to be seen. In such a short amount of time it does a remarkable job of conveying both Meyer’s admiration of Martiny and his art, and Martiny’s unassuming, positive energy. “I love to tell stories,” Meyer says of his films. “My job at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art is that I’m an educator, and though the film is a private project, that’s what I tried to do (with the Martiny film), to tell the story and get the message out there.”
Meyer’s film is available on Vimeo (vimeo.com/145226611).
For more on Martiny and his work, visit donmartiny.com