For many creatives, turning a passion into a business seems far-reaching. But for artist Delita Martin, it was only a matter of time. “I had always imagined going out on my own,” she recalls. “And it was my husband who eventually encouraged me to live out my dream.” Propelled by her talent and his support, in 2016 Martin opened Black Box Press Studio outside Houston, creating large-scale mixed-media prints telling the stories of marginalized women. “I was raised by strong women,” she says. “For me, it’s important to talk about them—their accomplishments both in the community and at home.”
Martin has spent years honing her skills. As an undergraduate student she focused on conté and pencil drawing, later studying printmaking during graduate school. Today her process combines these techniques, while incorporating what she calls a “visual vocabulary” of objects, patterns and symbols—including bird and golden stool motifs—to take viewers on a deep, soulful journey. Vintage jewelry, decorative papers and even hand-stitching are other elements she uses to capture the eye. “These things have meaning to me but also connect universally as they’re found in all aspects of life regardless of gender or race,” she says.
On the surface, Martin’s work is vibrant, but more of the story is revealed beneath the layers. Each piece begins with a background or what Martin refers to as a “veilscape” through which the figures and layers seem to emerge. “It portrays the visual side of the spirit world,” she notes. “I add patterns because of their complexity—sometimes they fight each other, sometimes they marry well.” And it’s no coincidence female figures and circular patterns appear throughout. “It’s a shape representing the moon, which is a female symbol in African cultures,” the artist notes.
Martin’s art is on view at various institutions, and an upcoming exhibit will include 20 new works incorporating elements like silk screening and etching. But Martin’s real passion project is launching the Black Box Press Foundation as a way to help support artists creating works to propel political and social change. “When I think about art,” Martin says, “it changes minds and hearts, and minds change systems, and systems can change life—and I get to be a part of it.”