by Juan Cruz Molas y Molas
The power to connect, traveling to return home, the need to communicate something you believe in so much that can't breathe if you don't express it. We talk about the past, the present and the future and that essence that unites everything. From drawing on a school bench to designing the image of a music festival like Grl Power and visually representing a movement as determined as feminism. Martina Galarza aka Marte, with meticulous curiosity, geological studies and a human warmth that illuminates everything in her path, lives up to her pseudonym, and continues to demonstrate that she arrived to never leave, and that her footprint is going to leave a mark impossible to erase.
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”
- Carl Sagan.
Where are you from? What was it like growing up there and how did this influence you for what came next?
I lived until I was 17 in Junín, Buenos Aires. It's a very small city with a town soul. The good side is that I grew up with nature nearby and a lot of tranquility, but on the other hand, I was quite bored. So I spent all my school hours drawing and when I came home I used to play all day the guitar. Clearly, that boredom helped a lot to develop my creativity. On the other hand, I was always like the weird fish. It didn't bother me, but the monotony of the rest frustrated me a little bit. Music and the internet saved me from believing I was crazy.
Have you always thought as a graphic designer, as an illustrator, as a creator of letterings? Or at what age did this facet begin to manifest itself and why?
When I was young I used to like to draw and as a teenager I was fascinated by album covers and everything related to T-shirt prints. I used to dig a lot of surf and skate brands, although I had little to do with that world, but the illustrations and letterings that they had fascinated me. Also like almost all the teenagers of my generation, I did a lot of letters at school, bubbles and so on, but I had no idea that lettering existed and that it was a profession. I thought about studying graphic design but I didn't have a very clear idea of what it was, and I didn't think I could put my creativity under the pressure of a deadline. So I decided to go on a very different way, but that still interested me a lot, which was science. I studied geology for 4 years and during that time I completely forgot about my drawing. In those years I played in a band and as a hobby I started helping musician friends by making flyers for their gigs and when I saw that it could be a profession I left the Exact Sciences Faculty and crossed over to FADU. In my first year I took lettering classes with Guille Vizzari, legend of letters, and that forever marked how I approach my designs. The lettering is what made the text and illustrations on my posters coexist much better.
I feel that music is part of your clients, world, day to day work, as well as artistic. For example, some of your designs reminded us of some facets of Mike Mills. Do you have any influence from a designer in the recording industry?
Music is everything for me. Since I can remember, there is not a second of the day where there is not a song playing in my head. At 13, after putting together several savings, I bought my first guitar and I couldn't get rid of it. I knew at some point to dedicate myself to that, I played in bands, but nowadays I feel it more like something very intimate and sacred. I will never stop doing it, but I don’t want to put any pressure on it, now for example I am learning to play the drums.
Within music designers, I think Alejandro Ros's covers are exceptional, Santi Pozzi's posters and Elefante Diamante's visuals are from another planet. I don’t have many international references, but I’m not too attentive if I’m honest. Milton Glaser is a historic North American designer that I admire greatly, not only for his covers but for all his different design facets, he has a truly infinite portfolio.
We saw your work and famous images, from Club Paraguay, Sara Hebe, Pussy Riot, etc. How do you feel the fact that your work visually accompanies the artistic expressions of music and certain festivals?
I always say I have the best job in the world. It is really an honor to illustrate so many artists that I admire. The image is crucial in music, from times when you discovered an artist in a record store through vinyl cover, until today when we consume almost everything through networks. I do it with a lot of love because I really want those musicians to reach more people, that no one overlooks that they play on that day, or that they have a new album. And for that, good visual communication is key.
How did you come to participate in the Grl Power festival and how was that experience?
They contacted me directly from the production, then they told me that Caveman and George Manta had recommended me which was an honor. From the beginning I loved the proposal, it is not only a festival with a lineup headed by women, but it is also produced 100% by women. Witnessing the first edition was truly magical and unforgettable. That night I fell and I thought "ah, I never experienced this". It's crazy, but I never went to a gig where men were not the majority in the audience, nor on stage, nor in the production. And the result is clearly different, it is another energy. There was a lot of love in the air that night. The first edition was on a low budget but there was attention and care down to the smallest detail and an exceptional deal with the artists. I am very happy that they continue to grow and each edition is bigger. It is very deserved because they work very hard to achieve it.
Where does the need to participate in a festival like Grl Power or to do an art show like Female Power come from and why do you think it is important to do so?
I did Female Power in March 2018 at a key moment for the feminist struggle in Argentina, but also worldwide. It was when the ‘MeToo’ movement started and here we were fighting for abortion. I had been thinking about having a personal exhibition for a long time, but I always lacked the reason why. As a good designer, if what I want to do does not answer the question "why", I don’t do it. And at that moment it was very clear what I had to do. There was a lot of anguish and frustration in the air for feeling that we were not heard and I wanted to transmit a message of optimism that helps us to go through the fight, that reminds us of how powerful we are.
I will not deny that I doubted if it was a good idea, if I was not going to be judged both by anti-feminists, and by feminists who consider me naive. But I felt that it was very important to contribute to the fight from my place. If I knew how to speak I would go to a debate, but I would be making a fool of myself, what I know is to communicate visually, and that's what I did. Luckily it was received super well, I think that all designers should use our voice to express our beliefs.
We detected in your show Female Power a very active psychedelic component, from the 60s, why did you decide to do it this way?
Beyond being a fan of that aesthetic, I think it represents very well how I feel the feminine energy. I find it hard to put it into words, but I see it as an explosion of color, organic forms... it is like the force of nature that makes everything spring again, very subtle, but very powerful.
"There was a lot of anguish and frustration in the air for feeling that we were not heard and I wanted to transmit a message of optimism that helps us to go through the fight, that reminds us of how powerful we are".
- Martina Galarza aka Marte.
How was the experience of participating and winning the Latin American Design Award?
It was so cool. On the one hand, I think that awards don't mean much, and I don't know if it's really possible to judge which design is better than another. I see it more as an acknowledgment and I’m proud that it is for Female Power, I hope that this is something that perhaps encourages other designers to have personal projects and support causes. The most important thing for me was my family, friends and followers response, friends. It was very beautiful to receive an enormous amount of messages, for me that was the prize. It is something that gave me a lot of strength to keep going.
We saw that in your letterings there are many different expressions, How is the process you have to reach those results?
When working with bands, it seems essential to transmit the music vibe, that's why I really like to explore different styles until I find the one that best represents them. I like to believe that I don’t have a unique aesthetic, I believe that no designer should have it, because we cannot put ourselves in the middle of the message. We're always going to have a personal way of doing things and that maybe eventually translates into a style, but it's more comprehensive. It's not that you always use the same letter or the same color palette.
What have been and are the influences or references that have most marked your way of thinking, your way of seeing the world, of expressing yourself, of creating?
I feel like here I should quote every movie I saw and every song I heard. My way of seeing the world is constantly changing, and art is the first agent to achieve that.
But beyond that, studying geology changed my vision of the planet, time, the universe and helped a lot to make me feel insignificant. Practicing tai chi helped me always see the other side of events, that nothing exists without its opposite. And traveling made me realize that there is nothing better than home. Today I am reading a book called Sapiens that is changing my vision of humanity a lot.
You have been traveling a lot this last time, where do you feel that everything is connected?
This question is difficult, if I think about it I think that not everything always connects. There are cultures that seemed close to me but when I lived them I realized that they are very different and it was really very difficult to connect. Perhaps the points are connected in my experience, and in my interpretation of encounters and events. Maybe not vibrating with something makes me reevaluate what I vibrate with.
We know you were living in Australia, what was it like to live in that country, why did you decide to travel there?
I lived in Melbourne for 8 months, which is a city with a giant artistic scene, both musical and visual. I was attracted to that but I was so much more surprised than expected, I never saw this in any other city. There is so much variety and such good quality that it is overwhelming. I didn't know much about the city itself but I fell in love that it has a very calm rhythm and nature is always very close. I wanted to stay a while longer to fully experience it but the COVID situation made me want to return to Argentina. Though the panorama there is very calm, I felt a strong need to be at home at a time like this.
Where are you now? Do you have any future projects? What's next?
Future projects were canceled due to the pandemic. Now I find myself thinking about how to transform my practice by the time everything stops. I have been thinking for a long time that I want to work together with other disciplines and that I want to share my knowledge, now I also add to wondering what I can do to improve this situation. I think that community is going to be key to go through the wounds that this moment is going to leave behind, I don't know how I can help but I want to use my power of communication to help connect people.
This is a question that I am asking as many people as I can, and it is an axis that I think runs through all of us, especially now, what is being ‘human’ for you?
It is an eternal question that I could never answer. Thinking about the dimension of the universe, about the millions of years on Earth and seeing that we are so small and spend so little time in that system makes me feel insignificant. At the same time, we exist due to an infinite accumulation of coincidences that allows us to be here today, and that makes me feel that we are very important. But everything is interconnected with each other, from the farthest star to the mosquito that just bit you. I really don't think we are more important than a rock. Everything spectacular that the human being once did, is in principle for the benefit of his own species, at most to try to repair the damage he did to the ecosystem. I don't want to sound incredibly pessimistic, but we are not necessary within this system, everything existed before and will continue to exist after us. The planet will change as it did thousands of times, the rest of the universe never found out that we exist. How do I translate this into my daily life? I try to do good, within what I can, because it makes me feel good too. And I look for beauty and I highlight it, because I feel that it reminds us of how beautiful it is to be alive.