Retrospective of My Fertility

Recently, I dug out the fragments of my full-scale inhabitable drawings. I reconfigured these documents and inserted them into the Weizenblatt Gallery at Mars Hill University, a solo show of a career, which spans the age of my daughter who recently turned 19. This is how a mother keeps time.

Martha next to her daughter’s painting. Photo by Jesse Kitt.

The exhibit contains the projects that I developed during those 19 years: drawings in two, three, and four dimensions, slivers of life, CiTy-Scans and cross sections across time, through culture and the physical spaces that contain life. My work is as much a reinterpretation of drawing in which architectural conventions are rethought as much as it is an examination of humanity.

It all began with “Eggs Without a Yolk,” an overexposed super8 film about infertility. I was in fact pregnant but the doctors thought otherwise. Three months into it with dizzy spells and other symptoms that sent me to a gastroenterologist and other specialists, it was revealed that yes, I was indeed carrying a child – to their surprise, and the happiest day of my life.

The pregnancy coincided with another huge desire of mine. As my child was forming, I was in the intensive interview process for a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan, one of three awarded yearly in the school of architecture, an opportunity that would launch my teaching career. Fast-forward several months: I got it – I got the job and I got the baby! My life as a visionary guiding young people to develop visions of their own and represent them in ways that touched and engaged others emerged and began parallel and intertwined with postpartum, a move, and my life nursing and nurturing a brand new being.

Memory Cards – Impromptu Memorial photo by Dustin White

Installations and participatory documents come to life through collective participation. My work, which I prefer to refer to as “play,” is created through connection and exchange. As spaces, performances, experiments, and community projects – in playful ways they address, highlight, and subvert societal and environmental issues that need transforming. The process by which they emerge is a celebration of life.

The assemblage of this body of “play” ironically coincides with the onset of a new set of symptoms, dizzy again and other such things that are not fully understood in regards to the completion of a woman’s fertile cycle. This retrospective of my fertility follows a divorce and letting go of the 19-year career – something that I lost in the process of nurturing my daughter as a teenager when she needed me so much. A cycle ends and this is not a somber thing as society makes it out to be. It is yet another beautiful transition and birthing. I invite you to this celebration and to the launch of my new project!

PLACE: Weizenblatt Gallery, Mars Hill University School of Art, 79 Cascade Street, Mars Hill, NC 28754
DATE: November 1 – December 15,
GALLERY HOURS: Monday through Friday 10-4 pm / Meet the artist Wednesday, November 29 2-4 pm


Martha Skinner’s work has been surveyed in books such as Installations by Architects and Architects Draw, and exhibited internationally. Honors for Martha include exhibition of her work in the 10th Venice Biennale and at the 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, five awards from I.D. Magazine, a Next Generation Award from Metropolis Magazine, second prize award from The Van Alen Institute and receipt of a People, Prosperity and the Planet Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Her work has been recognized in publications such as Discover Magazine, ID Magazine, Metropolis Magazine, Fast Company, Business Week, Architectural Record, A+U, Transmaterial, and WordChanging.

Motion Mapping. Photo by Beth Headly

Martha received the Walter B. Sanders Fellowship from the University of Michigan, The Abraham E. Kazan Fund Prize from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and was selected by the Prime-Time Juried Exhibition for the launch of the New Media Gallery at the Asheville Art Museum. Most recently, she was selected to present her ideas in a TEDx talk, titled the Exponential Power of Design. She is founder of a creative collective with that name and co-founder of fieldoffice. Martha taught for 19 years at Clemson University and at The University of Michigan and collaborated with other universities. Martha is a U.S. Citizen, born in Colombia and living in Asheville, N.C. She has lived in Colombia, France, Italy, The Czech Republic, and Spain. Her work can be found at marthaskinner.com.

And launching soon:
BeAutism – the idea emerged in 2015 and is coming to life in 2018!!
A gift came to me through this lifetime experience of 19 years, through my daughter and through my body of “play.” BeAutism is a movement, an art project, a constellation of connections, a web, a matrix, a map, a database – in BeAutism the idea of “disorder,” in this case autism, will be subverted to present the reality of what is just a different and beautiful type of mind. BeAutism is a different kind of documentary: a visual and auditory investigation into an invaluable segment of our world’s population. As an art project and a living map, this undertaking will illuminate the power of “autistic” minds – great minds – while creating a network of connections and possibilities for these intricate, sensitive, focused, perceptive individuals, who are often overwhelmed by our current societal constructs and thus are so often misunderstood.

To contribute to this project, please visit BeAutism in my website marthaskinner.com.
“We’ve never had anything like what Martha is preparing and we’ll never have it again.” – Kenn Kotara, Gallery Director
Contact: Martha Skinner skinnermartha@gmail.com

Written by Martha Skinner