Daniela Martén is a Latin American artist who was born in Costa Rica. Ever since she can remember, she’s had a strong connection with nature, whether that was helping her mother water their garden’s plants or traveling to different Costa Rican beaches. She thinks of nature as one of the main visual inspirations for her art, but also found in it a strong conceptual influence for her latest flower paintings series called Sensual Tropical Limbic.
In this series, she merges nature, a very vibrant and vivid color palette, and explores sexuality, sensuality, and erotism on a conceptual level through the flowers she paints.
Martén, who obtained her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the University of Costa Rica, has had her art exhibited throughout Costa Rica and had her first international exhibition in New York at the Room57 Gallery last year.
On a warm morning in San José, Costa Rica, ArtRKL sat down and spoke with Martén, 46, about her life and work via Zoom. Excerpts follow.
What do you enjoy the most about creating art?
I enjoy art in all its forms. I enjoyed it a lot as a spectator. I’m very excited and curious about it. I’ve always loved it a lot, but what I definitely love the most is creating it. It’s something that’s alive and manifests itself through me. It’s not necessarily rational or my mind isn’t at play.
It’s calming, but it’s about just being. It’s the way I feel I’m just being. I’m reestablishing my connection with the Earth or my reason to be alive. It’s also a creating process, almost as giving birth and procreating.
When creating an artwork, which is your process?
For the flowers, I’ve got a strong interest in erotism. [Understanding] erotism as a creating force that’s inherent in all living beings on the planet, and I’m also a feminist. I’ve always been very conscious about how as women we’ve been suppressed on a sexual level. It’s not only a critique of the fact that we’re suppressed on a sexual level, but also understanding why. Which is the fear?
I’ve been exploring that and there’s definitely a fear in the original myths. Eva’s punishment for committing the original sin and the rest of us as women are still punished for it. And the fear towards erotism, specially manifested by women.
These interests just manifest themselves when I create, draw, or paint.
Why do you use such a vibrant and vivid color palette?
It’s because I’m a tropical being. Here in Costa Rica, it’s impossible to not be influenced by the colors and nature. Nature is something that I’ve always loved and that I look for. I’m always looking to connect with it and I’ve always enjoyed seeing flowers up close. I love seeing their pistils and observing how their colors change from the inside to the outside. Seeing a flower like that [makes gestures with hands of seeing a flower] is a whole world.
I can represent forms, colors, smells, and gestures through my art. These are all erotic expressions from nature and I want to express erotism through these forms and colors. It’s seduction, pleasure, and creation.
What do you want to communicate through flowers and nature?
When analyzing “why flowers?”, female sexuality and sensuality came through. Our religions have punished sexuality, especially for women, which is quite contradictory. When you see nature, it’s all a sexual expression. Flowers are the genitals of the plants and they’re open. They’re calling you and shamelessly seducing.
I’m very curious about the fact that as human beings we use the flowers for our most solemn moments: deaths, births, graduations. We place flowers on the entrance of our house, in churches, and they’re genitals in plain sensual explosion, erotism, and sexuality.
However, it’s suppressed in human beings. I like talking about that incoherence that exists in us.
For the exhibit in New York, what was it like representing Costa Rica and being one of the few Latin American artists in the exhibit?
It was amazing. The exhibit and vernissage were super nice. A Costa Rican curator for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) came. The former presidential candidate for Chile also came and she’s a super cool woman. A lot of people I didn't know came and it was very nice that they were there supporting me. They’re very prominent Latin American women.
It was cool. I felt great and I want to keep doing it even more. Not only because I’m Latin American, but also because I’m a woman.
What does it mean to be a woman?
What I know about being a woman is a little bit about what society has told me. I don’t know if I believe in that; if you’re a woman or a man. Or if it is what you were told, but what I do know about being a woman is that it’s not easy.
We have it harder. That’s what I know about being a woman. I know I can give birth because I have my children, but I don’t necessarily associate it with being a woman. I think that what I most associate it with are the difficulties that we face for being women.
What is the role of sexuality in your art?
Not all of the art that I’ve done is about sexuality, but in this Sensual Tropical Limbic series it is. This all started around 2010. I had already had my children. I was in my thirties, married, and I thought my sexuality was done. I had lived my youth. I had had my boyfriends, had my honeymoon phase with my husband, and my sexuality was done.
But I had a sexual awakening in that moment, which was completely different. I obviously had pleasure before, but it was now an acknowledgment. I had an epiphany in that moment. I understood it was something that was never going to die. It’s not done because I’m 30 or after having children. It’s something in me.
That’s when I became interested in erotism in nature. I started painting the flowers. I started reading a lot about it and found various women who had the same experience. There was the author Anais Nin, who speaks a lot about her sexual awakening and then, Georgia O’Keeffe who paints flowers. That had a great influence.
And I’d like for all women to have that epiphany I had. That we find ourselves in our sexuality and not be afraid of it.
Lastly, what does it mean to be a Costa Rican, Central American, and Latin American woman artist?
What are the odds? It means that I have it much more difficult, but at the same time it encourages me more. One of my main interests is female representation around the world. So, from my behalf you’ll have that female representation. The feminism I believe in encompasses geography and race.
So, I enjoy placing it on the map or, at least, trying to place it on the map. Speaking about my perspective. And, how many times is the perspective of a Latin American and Central American woman listened to? It feels great.
If you want to travel to a luscious and exuberant tropical Costa Rica, you should dive into Martén’s vibrant art by following her on Instagram as @danimarte and visit her website. If you identify with nature, feminism, and art pieces that make you reflect about life, Martén is the right artist. It’s refreshing to see her art and tell her story. She’s the example of why female Costa Rican, Central American, and Latin American representation matters to me because we’re both making it in an international field where our voices are usually not heard.
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