Holly Ballard Martz
The Greatest Show on Earth
April 12 - May 25, 2019
First Thursday Art Walk: May 2nd , 5-9pm
Thursday April 25th: 6-8pm. (talk starts at approx. 6:30pm)
Friday & Saturday, 12-5pm,
First Thursday Art Walks: 5-9pm
and by appointment.
Historically American democracy has been heralded as a worldwide beacon of liberty and justice with the US flag one of its most potent symbols. In her latest installation Holly Ballard Martz reconfigures the familiar stars and stripes into a more fitting representation of the current spectacle of US politics. Fifty sanctioned cotton flags are cut, stitched, and stretched across the expanse of the gallery, creating a 30-foot circus tent for all to enter. No need to run away to join the circus, the circus has come to you.
Artist STATEMENT: Fancied by our forefathers as a worldwide beacon of liberty and justice, American democracy lives and dies by the power of its symbols, the foremost of which is the US flag. This banner is meant to fly for freedom and fairness, but, especially since the 2016 election, I find myself overwhelmed by the hypocrisy paraded beneath it. With my latest installation, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” I have reconfigured the familiar stars and stripes into what I believe is a more fitting representation of the spectacle that is US politics.
Driven always by my fascination with patterns and their contexts, I spent considerable time manipulating the US flag in my studio. The recent and ongoing degradation of that symbol strikes me as so poignant, I had to find a way to make it more than just a metaphor. While our administration, among other atrocities, normalized xenophobia and bigotry, revered gun ownership over the lives of children, denied the undeniable facts of climate change, and attacked the free press along with the most basic rights of its
non-white-male citizens, I stripped flags to tatters, I cut flags into pieces, and I bleached flags to the point where you could see the Russian flag I’d hung strategically behind it.
For The Greatest Show on Earth, I stitched, stretched, and strung up fifty US flags to create a thirty-foot circus tent anchored over a red and white striped vinyl floor. In experimenting with the US flag, I noticed its similarities to those big red and white canvas circus tents, and discovered a sobering juxtaposition. In much the same way the Ringling Bros. forged their legacy, the US political system is almost exclusively a “pay to play” game. Candidates have to raise absurd amounts of money to run for office and must begin fundraising for the next election the second they win, all while lobbyists with deep pockets possess inordinate influence and gerrymandering and voter suppression distort and squash the will of the people. Meanwhile, our elected officials are so wrapped up in what performance will let them keep their offices, they forget the promises they made to uphold those offices. Though boasted as the greatest on Earth, American democracy loses itself in pageantry and surrounds its citizens in an atmosphere that sours from awe-inspiring to claustrophobic, a feeling I endeavor to replicate within my star-spangled circus tent.
Holly Ballard Martz uses language and found objects to create iconic, multi-media works about deeply felt social, political, and personal issues, including mental illness, gun violence, and reproductive rights. Her two-dimensional, sculptural, and installation-based practice includes casting, sewing, metalwork, encaustic; whatever is needed to articulate her concerns and engender critical dialogue. Martz holds a BFA in Printmaking from Cornell University, and a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington. Based in Seattle, Martz has exhibited nationally, and her work is held in many private and public collections. She is represented by ZINC contemporary in Seattle WA.
METHOD is fiscally sponsored by Shunpike! Shunpike is the 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that provides independent arts groups in Washington State with the services, resources, and opportunities they need to forge their own paths in sustainable success.