Martha Rich’s New Installation Opens at ArtsQuest

Seldom do we think of the little things in our daily lives. Sounds in particular, such as offhand remarks, unusual questions, overheard exclamations, and lingering phrases, bounce off the ear without a second thought. However, artist Martha Rich appears hyperconscious of these moments.

Rich is a Philadelphia-based artist whose art primarily involves drawing, painting, and collage. Her work has been displayed in numerous galleries, magazines, murals, and advertisements, which attests to her impressive success in her craft. Much of Rich’s inspiration comes from the fleeting, seemingly insignificant interactions we have with each other—and the sounds that they produce. Conversations, background noises, advertisements, and “chitter-chatter” inform her work, and this can be seen through the characteristic word bubbles that appear in many of her pieces.

On April 27th, Rich’s newest installation, entitled “What is a Lemon?,” opened for display in the Capital BlueCross Creativity Commons at ArtsQuest. The piece, which is rather large, utilizes brightly-painted wooden cutouts that are scattered about the white wall, mimicking the chaos of the sounds we hear on a daily basis.

Photo credits: Victoria McCulley

The most extraordinary quality of the installation was the vivid colors incorporated into every part of the piece. It seems that dozens of different colors were used to make every component of the collage pop from the wall on which it hung. Neon pink, orange, and green were placed alongside rich tones of purple and blue to give the artwork a feeling of electricity as the colors appeared to glow. These bright bursts of color could be found in the subtlest of places, whether it was in the faces’ plump lips, around the eyes, or in the curls of their hair. The choice of color partnered with the bold, black contour lines in the face made each piece of the installation incredibly fun and interesting.

Rich’s careful attention to individuality showed in each of the faces in the paintings. No two figures looked even remotely similar, each face its own unusual combination of colors for the eyes, skin, hair, and lips. Additionally, each face revealed a unique personality, as seen through the variety of wacky hairdos and facial expressions depicting everything from elation to frustration. The diversity in each of the people depicted is so fascinating that a viewer could stare at the installation forever, piecing together each character.

Photo credits: Victoria McCulley

Numerous speech bubbles makeup the majority of the space and pull everything in the installation together. Each quote touches on an obscure topic, mimicking the spontaneity and peculiarity of overheard conversations. Different sized bubbles suggest a sort of intermingling of these unusual remarks. Each face can be seen saying something like “Everything is 50% worthless” or “Get me a wooder ice”—a nod to Rich’s Philly roots. While each of these bubbles act as individual remarks, the combination of these quotes makes it appear as though everyone is unknowingly in conversation with each other. In this instant, the viewer is bombarded with this chaotic mix of color and word. Standing in front of the artwork, I couldn’t help but think about how this acts as a powerful and uplifting reflection of our own humanity and the way in which these small sounds and conversations connect us.

Martha Rich’s “What is a Lemon?” will be on display in ArtsQuest until August 26th.

Feature photo credits: Victoria McCulley

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