Martha Coaty, Racine
2020–21 RAM Artist Fellowship Award Recipient
Photography: Camela Langendorf, Varitay Studios
Born in 1960, Martha Coaty lives and works in Wisconsin. Coaty received a BA with a dual emphasis in both journalism and art from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1984. Her work has received many awards and has been featured in exhibitions at various venues including the Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend; Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee; and Manhattan Arts, New York. Her work is held in multiple public collections including the Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay; and Mosaic Arts, Inc., Green Bay.
Coaty’s work focuses on found subjects and scenes throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest. She states, “Simplicity narrows my approach when finding geometric shapes and color on the landscape. I use stillness to represent the quietness of my subjects. I feel connected to my images in a spiritual sense of how I got here, or why I was there to record what I saw.”
Photography allows me to observe in a way that takes something that is and makes something that isn’t. “Out of context” best describes my focus on parts of a whole while I elevate the subject to create something new. A background in journalism and advertising encourages me to create work that is objective and appealing. I gauge the quality of my photographs by asking myself if I would enjoy hanging them on my wall. While some images are photojournalistic with commentary on the human condition, the abstract works are simply for the enjoyment of the viewer. With them, I seek to transform details into shapes, colors, and emotional vignettes. Simplicity is my starting point—it gives the viewer an opportunity to slow down and find calm in my compositions. And stillness, when the viewer is engaged with the photograph, provides a staying power.
The Great Lakes region offers industrial and urban settings with planes of color and smooth transitions into wide open spaces of agriculture. There is never a shortage of visual stimulation. Inspiration is external while I find that my observation process comes from within, from my memories and personality. I do strive for images that are straightforward, balanced, and clean. When I am peaceful, everything takes on beauty in and of itself.