Lisa Martin
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BFA in Photography
Owner/Director of the Women's Darkroom + Gallery

Where are you originally from and how did you hear about MCAD?

I was born in Portland, Oregon and lived there for two years. My family moved to St. Louis Park, Minnesota when I was four and that's where I grew up. MCAD was the art school in Minneapolis and I wanted to go to art school.

It was 1983–84 and I applied to the University of Minnesota and MCAD. No one in my generation talked about colleges the way they do now. It was a very different time and I had no money to even think about living anywhere else or how to pay for school. I paid for two degrees by myself.

What was your major and how did you choose it?

Photography—I started photographing at fifteen so that was what I wanted to do.

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

Just follow your path and be honest with yourself. Be humble and thankful. Try not to compare yourself to other people or look to anyone for approval of your ideas. You can get caught up in other people's success when you are down and it's a complete waste of time. No one can walk in your shoes and tell your story the way you can. Even if you are struggling, remember that we all have our own path. Some people get recognition right away and some don't. It's complicated, but you need to stay true to yourself and your vision.

Describe your internship(s).

I interned for free at the 20x24" Polaroid Studio in Soho in the early '90s where I met a lot of artists. I ended up managing William Wegman's studio for three years before leaving to work in publishing. I have done a lot of different jobs and worked for a lot of artists. It's been interesting!

What is your biggest takeaway from MCAD?

Follow your dream. It's not about making money even though we all need it to survive. Life is much bigger and more interesting than that. Really challenge yourself: emotionally, physically, spiritually. Your art should not always be easy to make. In fact, if it is really easy for you maybe try something that isn't easy and see where that leads you. The most interesting art comes from real struggle, grappling with issues, with mediums, self-knowledge, immersion, self-doubt, exhilaration, sameness, otherness, and change. Challenge yourself and reach higher. Everything is a learning experience.

Describe what you do for work and how you feel about it.

I work with artists on showing exhibitions of their work and creating small publications for the shows as well as posters, etc. in my small gallery in Brooklyn. I am planning on opening a black and white darkroom for women to come and make their work pending funding. I also make my own art and I love what I'm doing.

How did you get your job? 

I created my job. I sat with myself after working in publishing for twenty years as the director of photography at InStyle Magazine and said, "Self, you have been making your work in your bedroom after you lost your studio for years. When you get a break from your crazy job you make your art. Now it's time for you, your work, and you can try and help other artists by showing their work, building a darkroom for women to print their work, build a community, start a critical club, make interesting publications, etc."

I have been funding it with my savings but that's about GONE! So now I'm going to freelance, worry about money, make work that is interesting, and not give up! It's so easy to say, hey, I want nice things, I want to buy something, but not anymore. When I leave this planet behind I want to have said something meaningful and help people—including my family. Even if it's tiny, even if other people don't get it right away, even if no one sees it but me and my friends and family at first.

How do you network yourself and your art?

I talk to a lot of people about what I want to do and my ideas change, grow, and solidify the more I talk and write. I email a lot of people to ask them questions, get their yes or no to what it is I need. I post on Instagram—it's social media and that's a platform to promote your work, yourself, and your business. I make printed matter for the shows, which is great because it has a life of its own after the show is gone and can reach more people.

What inspires you?

Light, water, little and big sounds and the in-between noises, books, spaces, architecture, design, matter, the weight of something, the shape of something, the feel of something, food, people and their stories, writers, artists and their work, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, intellectuals, the weather, rain, the air, smell, nature, and some birds.

Current obsession?

To make money again and be sustainable. I have a lot I want to do.

Please note that the artwork pictured for Wood, Stone, and String are works in progress.