The painter Breanna Cee Martins paints the mirage of an America that never existed, for people like her and entire swaths of the population of this country.  The white picket fences and greener lawns of early 20th century amateur photography she draws inspiration from barely hides the rot just below the surface; the tension and strain of this brave new world and an America that was never great but only as good as we aspire to make it.  The artist graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2008, and earned their MFA in painting at the New York Academy of Art in 2011, giving their commencement speech alongside those by artists Jenny Saville and Peter Drake.  The artist’s watercolor paintings fall away from the viewer like a half remembered dream; images of ghostly and phantom children, coming together to explode in kaleidoscopic colors.  Working from found black and white photos abandoned by their families, the images metamorphose into Technicolor nightmares, the old made new.  Children dressed up as monsters, and monsters dressed up as children; these monochromatic visions glow with infernal light, watching the viewer, watch them.  Posed family photos capture the conflicts raging beneath the surface; the pause or unease creating narrative tension, a rift between what is expected and what’s seen, and better left unsaid.  Exhibited together the paintings act as a collective summation of the various color filters of emotions we view the past through rose-colored glasses or through a scanner, darkly.  They are images captured from the sunlight playing upon your eyelids filtering a half remembered dream, or the afterglow of a fading star, an apparition of our world growing dimmer amidst the passage of time.  These paintings confront you with pleading eyes, asking the viewer to delve deeper into the question, does this familial imagery have personal meaning to you?

Or, is it evocative of an emotional scene you might have remembered, yet never experienced?


“The female body also appears, somewhat fragmented and fiery, in Benjamin Martins’ Pretty Fierce – pretty but fierce, suggesting the difficulty of relating to her, if also her self destructiveness”

Donald Kuspit

Essay, Some Dialectical Images, 2011

“…your love of painting and infatuation with the marks pulls things together with sensitivity and daring and all the things we really hope to see in a young artist.”

Vincent Desiderio

Senior Critic, New York Academy of Art, 2012