Future is Goddess

Pen + Brush

Feb. 28, 2024 - Apr. 22, 2017

29 East 22nd Street
New York, 10010
Phone (212) 475-3669


In Future is Goddess, Michela Martello’s blend of strength and softness, of domesticity and demolition, takes a stand against the anxieties of 2017 and affirms women’s power and potential in response to our current political and social uncertainty. Like many another woman in Western history, Martello’s work persists.

While not curated with a political bent in mind, the exhibition title embodies the artist’s vision and is an intentional play on the empowering phrase “the future is female,” with the role of goddess signifying a transformative rise in feminine power. The body of work represented in this eight-year survey showcases the traditional and contemporary influences on Martello’s work, as well as the variety of techniques, media, themes, and cultures she draws upon to create art that achieves a universal language of aesthetics while crossing societal boundaries and merging centuries. To wit, for Future is Goddess, the artist is painting a site-specific graffiti mural on the gallery wall that features three goddesses representing a mixing of cultural backgrounds. Viewers are invited to interact with the mural by tagging.

An Italian-born artist living and working in Brooklyn, it is important to both her work – and to Martello as a person – that the privilege of being an artist never be forgotten. After studying art in high school, Martello endeavored to join the painting department at the Accademia Di Belle Arti Di Brera in Milan. Enrollment, however, proved more complicated: “the office was closed because of political strikes, lots of feminism, anarchism and communist tales, I was there every morning yelling to whoever was there to open the window and let people enroll… nothing happened…” These opposing social circumstances forced Martello to take a different path as a successful illustrator, before relocating a decade later to New York. Here, she returned completely to her painting practice armed with an arsenal of techniques gleaned from the realm of illustration.

Martello’s approach is an open exploration of history, belief systems, and their corresponding symbols, and is driven by the discovery and re-discovery of meanings. The artist experiments with new materials as she works to capture the intangible spark of different religions, races, cultures, and even time periods, building up her textile canvases only to break them down and retreat. It is on this surface, made up equally of construction and destruction, that her materials, cultures, and times periods are united. This union can be as fleeting or as long lasting as the viewer demands. A close examination reveals the religious symbols Martello weaves into her work, bringing ancient and foreign idioms into conversation with her modern frescos. Combined with an illustrator’s eye for narrative, her art becomes a means to turn the deepest human contemplations into whimsical and fluid works, encapsulated stories into which a viewer is invited to decide where their relational entry point lays. The result is art that prompts an important cultural discourse spanning centuries; an aesthetic where understanding, love, and enlightenment reign through the plastic language of art.

Michela Martello’s work is uniquely captivating due, in part, to her painterly gesture which holds nothing back. It is as though the viewer is given a direct line to the most personal part of the artist: her thoughts and emotions. Vulnerability is rampant, as is her whimsical yet non-didactic way of depicting her subject matter. She guides the viewer through challenging philosophical terrain, communicating deep cultural and spiritual sentiments through, at times, gentle imagery. It is this unique gift for dense themes presented with a light – and occasionally charming – touch that makes Martello such an appealing and thought-provoking artist.

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