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Interview: Martha Rich, chainsaws and Marfa, Texas


Hi Martha!! You were one of the first people to join the 826LA project. We have been a big fan of your work and it’s great to do something special like this together. What was it about the project and 826LA that you love?

I have worked with 826 Valencia on a book project and it was an excellent experience. I love the idea behind all these 826 stores. I think it’d be great if we could do some art tutoring there too!

What did you like about the stories you illustrated for? What were your thoughts and approach to taking on the students stories? Is there anything you want to tell the young authors??

I like the authenticity and rawness of the stories. They are just being themselves and that is so refreshing. I’d tell the authors to keep on writing as much as possible and trust your own ideas!


You have great interaction with your fans on your website, you give a lot of opportunity for people to follow your work and get to know you. In particular, I love your Freedom Wig project. Can you tell us a little more about that project? Is it something you do to motivate? Is it something you do for your collectors? What is the idea behind Freedom Wig? Where does the name come from?

The name Freedom wig comes from the old wig ads in the back of tabloid magazines in the 70s. It was the name of a specific wig you could buy. But I saw that imagery first on the cover the Stone’s “Some Girls” album. The name is struck me as awesome and wrong. Wearing a wig isn’t really freeing, but when I was younger my mom had cancer and had to wear a wig and for her it was freeing. This made me obsessed with wigs.

I started Freedomwig as a challenge to myself to stay motivated. I did one painting every day for a year. I am much better with a goal. It was super hard but when the year was done I kinda missed it so now I do it Monday thru Friday. I am not as disciplined as before but it keeps me trying new things. I also like the idea of having affordable art. Everyone should be able to buy art, don’t you think?

Totally agree, that is the basic philosophy behind Poketo too. What drives the imagery in your work? How would you describe the work that you do, the inspiration, the meanings for the pieces to you. I’m sure each piece has a different meaning to you, but, your subjects and aesthetic is strong…. generally, is there something that drives your work?

Being annoyed with the way things are drives my work. The issues usually center around my insecurities. It is a diary with pictures.


You also recently finished up Beauty Road Trip with friend and artist, Esther Pearl Watson, who also contributed to the 826 project. Can you tell us how the project started, what it was about, what you were hoping for, looking back now, what are your thoughts on the roadtrip? Any anecdotes, favorite moments you want to share that stuck out to you from the trip?

The trip started because I love road trips. Esther and I teach at Art Center College of Design and they offer an enrichment grant to teachers, so we started thinking about an enrichment project that involves art and road tripping. We collaborated a while ago on a McSweeney’s published book “Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is” and the pieces we did had a beauty theme. So a Beauty Road Trip seemed like a natural next step. We wanted to find out what people outside of hyper-superficial L.A. thought about beauty.

There are so many good moments but one that stood out was our discovery that everyone in Marfa, TX has a chainsaw. Don’t ask!

I want to know! I’ll ask another time. You share a studio space with some amazing artists, including Esther Pearl Watson, Mark Todd, and Souther Salazar. Is there ever any melding of the minds, collaboration in a studio full of creativity? Do you guys usually keep to yourselves or do you ever make time to share ideas and projects that lead to some sort of collaboration? I can only imagine the energy in your studio!

When our studio first started there was a lot more interaction. It has changed and evolved with people leaving and new people coming in over the years. We definitely keep to ourselves more. Even though we are not a frenzied hotspot of collaboratin’ right now, there is a creative energy that each person shoots off that does have an affect on you. I can completely feel it.

Last but not least, any projects you are currently working on that you want to talk about, what’s coming up in 2009?

I have a show at La Luz de Jesus in April 2009 and Esther and I are figuring out what we are going to do with our crazy Beauty Road Trip experiences. Stay tuned!

Thanks Martha, we should do something at the Poketo space for Beauty Road Trip. We’ll talk later!

Check out Martha’s two wallets here and here.
Visit Martha at

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