Cute And Deadly: Profile Of Artist Martha Hull
Heady Vermont recently issued an RFP for visual creatives to decorate a tall, skinny wall in our new office space. Proposals aren’t due until November 22, but we were so tickled by the work of Burlington artist Martha Hull, that we decided to profile her immediately. She’s smart, funny, quirky, twisted, and extremely entertaining. So…for your dining and dancing pleasure, Martha Hull!
HVT: What is your personal background?
MH: I’ve had several different chapters in my adult life, including jobs as an archeologist, graphic designer, admin for an urban “country club,” student (I was a late bloomer and have both a BA and a BFA), and now, finally, I’m a full-time artist.
MH: I grew up in Vermont and have lived here a large part of my life. I left a couple times- for three years to go to art school in Boston, and for eight years to go to the “school of life” in Portland, Oregon. I struggle with the climate, but I keep coming back.
HVT: What’s the source of your artistic inspiration?
MH: I sum my art style up in three words: “Cute and deadly.” I’ve been drawn to dark or twisted things since childhood. I suspect my late October birthday may be a factor, but I might also just be wired that way. I am inspired by the worlds of Charles Addams (of the Addams Family), Edward Gorey, and Tim Burton.
There are wonderful things about Vermont that transcend physical comfort and ease of leaving the house.
I’m also a sucker for surrealism and anything that tells a good story, particularly one in which the world might end. My father trained me to appreciate both his incredibly dry sense of humor, and cornball comedies, like the Pink Panther series, and this factors hugely in my work.
My ideas can come from anywhere, from traces of childhood memories, to yesterday’s random conversation, to sitting down with my sketchbook and being quiet with a pencil (which is an important part of the process whether I am starting out with an idea or not.)
I find I need to use a lot of color in my art to balance the half-year colorless season here.
Things around me start showing up in my work – for example, I’ve been making a lot of food-themed art, influenced by all my neighbors at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. Also movies and books are big influences. Immersing myself in great cinematography has definitely contributed to how I picture things in my head. Shadows and light are important in setting mood in my art.
HVT: What’s your personal and artistic relationship to Vermont?
MH: I never thought I’d move back here after I moved to Oregon. I used to say “if I never touch snow again, that would be fine.” I would still say that, but it now sounds ridiculous.
There are wonderful things about Vermont that transcend physical comfort and ease of leaving the house. I wish I could have the culture of Vermont with the climate of Hawaii. I hear palm trees make lousy syrup though. I believe my wry, twisted sense of humor developed as a coping mechanism for northeast winters.
Artistically, there are huge influences from Vermont. I paint a lot of lightning. We don’t see as much as I’d like, but the excitement and gothicness of thunderstorms seared themselves into my imagination at an early age. When landscapes show up in my work, they look like the Green Mountains.
I’m slowly trying to figure out how to do art that speaks to the exceedingly popular Vermont tourist-art tropes (cows, landscapes, chickens, barns, Lake Champlain, sap buckets, etc.) with my own voice.
I find I need to use a lot of color in my art to balance the half-year colorless season here. I’m slowly trying to figure out how to do art that speaks to the exceedingly popular Vermont tourist-art tropes (cows, landscapes, chickens, barns, Lake Champlain, sap buckets, etc.) with my own voice. I’ve finally hit the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” point. I might as well make use of our common local cultural language.
HVT: What’s your relationship with cannabis?
MH: I’m becoming more and more open about using cannabis. I had been a closeted user since I was 18, when I tried for the first time with UVM college dorm friends. I have very conservative parents and it’s only been since they recently got very old, and finally off the internet, that I am slowly coming forward with more adult-themed art, including art that speaks to cannabis use.
And let us not overlook how great weed is for kicking cramps to the curb.
There’s always been a drug/surreal influence in my art – I grew up watching Sesame Street counting animations which were extremely trippy, and Lewis Carroll is ever present in the back of my imagination. I always loved swirls of colors, things morphing into other things, and all sort of weird imaginary things and happenings.
I find cannabis is a great shortcut to getting to a playful, creative mental place, and is really fun to have in my art toolkit. It’s also great for certain kinds of recreation, like watching abysmal movies, that the cannabis allows me to appreciate on a new level. I prefer sativa blends so it also sometimes helps me feel like cleaning. And let us not overlook how great weed is for kicking cramps to the curb.
HVT: What’s your vision for cannabis in Vermont?
MH: I’m hoping we continue to get this legalization thing sorted out. We are the queen of artisanal agriculture and we’ve been dropping the ball not being an early adopter on this. We need cannabis tourism and we need to get that boutique-quality Vermont Green out there.
HVT: Where are you based, how can people see your work, and what’s the best way for folks to contact you?
MH: I’m based in Burlington. I have art for sale at Thirty-odd on Pine Street in BTV year-round, and from Mothers’ Day to Halloween I set up every Saturday at the outdoor Burlington Farmers’ Market. I will be at the Women’s Festival of Crafts the weekend after Thanksgiving this year (third floor, all weekend!) and I do a variety of other art exhibitions and pop-up sales locations.
My art studio is at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in Burlington’s south end, where as well as being my workspace, I have original paintings for sale and a Cheap Art Chicken vending machine. (Bring quarters!) I’m always available on the internet too! You can see my art and buy prints at www.marthahull.com. I can be reached there, or on Instagram or Facebook at @deadlymartha.