Creatively breaking down barriers

Friday, 04 April 2014 11:22 Written by Angélica Abelleyra

She cannot bear feeling cramped. That is why as soon as she begins to feel suffocated by a landscape, topic or artwork, Martha Hellion heeds her impulse and begins exploring. Whether this involves binding art books, designing costumes or researching cultural issues, she delves into her own or other people’s stories and records nostalgia, trips and desires.

She has several loves, all leading to books. They are what give her the greatest pleasure: turning over their pages, touching their leaves with her fingers and eyes and weaving stories from these objects that
are not clusters of letters but rather pieces of memory.

She studied architecture and anthropology, both of which shaped her thinking, to which she added her taste for art. She was an only child for seven years, so to keep herself amused, she would copy the drawings and letters from newspapers her father gave her. That practice prepared her to for the architectural designs she had to produce years later.

At university, there were only five other women who dared study architecture. She loved the practical part and was good at math but there was something that did not satisfy her. She remembers that her degree course was all about theory whereas she liked, “the human aspect.” She also tried to become involved with anthropology and museum life. The museology at the Anthropology faculty opened her eyes to the infinite richness of textiles, which helped her channel her love into something else: fabrics. She also discovered another passion: Marc Chagall. Without being a fan of the Russian painter, she identified with his creative world through the costumes he designed for the ballet, opera and theater. For two years, she restored a hundred suits Chagall produced for various projects and even now continues to explore other costumes and serves as a consultant to the painter’s Permanent Foundation. One of her projects is to publish a book on this restoration work.

A visual artist with a peripheral perspective, she was the co-founder (together with Felipe Ehrenberg) of Beau Geste Press, through which she began her multidisciplinary professional work. She not only publicized the work of the Fluxus group but also broke through the barriers of specialization, becoming involved in dance and performance, conceptual art, publishing artists’ books  and mail art.

She shared this taste for creativity with a colleague who is no longer physically here  (he died in 1989) but always accompanies her: Ulises Carrión, about whom Martha wrote a book that is a compulsory reference for the universe that concerns us: Libros de artista. Homenaje a Ulises Carrión (published by the Carrillo Gil museum and other organizations).

As a producer of these art books, another of Martha’s plans in the medium term will be to set up an exhibition, distribution and exchange space in her own home, similar to Carrion’s (Other books and so, staged in Amsterdam between 1976 and 1981), in addition to showing works from her collection (pieces by Frederic Amat, Boris Viskin and Demián Flores, among many authors from Iceland, Italy and France) so as to continue with her all-ecompassing vision that breaks down barriers for the sake of creativity.

Text originally published in La Jornada Semanal (31/March/2002)
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