Artist Martín Gutierrez on Sex Dolls, YSL, and Celebrity Crushes

Meet Martín, new androgyne on the scene. Martín (pronounced Marteen) is spicing things up at Ryan Lee gallery with a series of portraits of the artist — whose full name, Martín Gutierrez, implies another layer of social commentary — as blow-up sex dolls. The show is both creepy and sublime, partly because it’s hard to believe that these veristic, voyeuristic dolls are not plastic, but Martín in the flesh, whose poses in lush architectural settings are both suggestive and mundane. It’s as if the dolls had just been used and discarded, either left on the bed, slumped in a chair, or hastily stuffed back into a cellophane bag.

Martín also makes music, hauntingly beautiful songs that call to mind Amy Winehouse’s throaty voice crossed with the lyrical gravitas of Antony Hegarty. The videos for these songs — in fact all of Martín’s work — are created entirely by the artist, not just the writing, but also the directing, producing, styling, and shooting. And then there are the collaborations with fashion houses, like YSL, who chose Martín’s first unreleased single, Hands Up, for their cruise 2012 video editorial, followed by Dior and Acne. Martín’s first EP is set to be released later this year. 

Here, the artist sheds light, and shading, on the many faces of Martín…

You work in a wide range of media, from photography and video to music and performance. In an industry that craves categorization, how do you fit in? Or is that the point — you don’t?
I would call myself a performance-based artist. I think the title lends me the most freedom to cross between mediums. We don’t have much choice in how we are perceived by others. Perception is a powerful dynamic I have learned to bend in my work, through personal trials and conflicts throughout my life. The freedom of individuality that the art community celebrates is my reasoning for gravitating towards it. 

Your video series — Martin(e) 1, 2 and 3 — are very focused on interior spaces and architecture. How intentional is this?
It is difficult for me not to respond to architectural space. I have always been attracted to buildings that hold iconic history, especially classical architecture, but perhaps this has something to do with the fact that both my parents practice architecture and I grew up keenly aware of the built environment.

There is a solitary, self-reflective vibe in the videos, recalling Tilda Swinton in I Am Love or even Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits. Are those accurate comparisons?
It is a privilege to be compared to such established artists. Both Swinton and Sherman share my investment in exploring personal transformation. More importantly, Tilda Swinton is also on my celebrity crush list.

There is a repeated refrain in the video series: “It was almost impossible to think of anything else.” What is the significance?
The phrase has multiple meanings for me, both positive and negative. For example, finding the dichotomy of meticulous details around you both exhausting and inspiring. 

Are the pencil mustache and the inclusion of “(e)” at the end of Martin(e) comments on gender roles and heteronormativity?
It is perhaps a more convoluted story. There is undoubtedly a cosmetic identity applied to the character of Martin(e), but the videos are also an idealized way of projecting myself. Because my name is Spanish, written with an accent over the “i,” it is pronounced Mar-TEEN, even though it looks like Martin. Another common mistake is when I say Mar-TEEN, people often write it as “Martine.” I honestly couldn’t care less how people spell my name as long as they pronounce it correctly, but it is always confusing when someone thinks I am a French girl and finds a Spanish boy.

Tell us about your work in fashion. How did you end up providing music for brands such as YSL, Dior and ACNE?
My liaisons with the fashion houses all started with YSL. After casually sharing an unreleased song with a few friends, the music made its way to France and was part of the playlist during the filming of the 2012 YSL Cruise Collection. A few days later, I received a call from Paris asking to collaborate. The others followed.

How has your work with these brands shaped your music?
If anything, it has shown me that there is something in my music that resonates in fashion. For sure, luxury is now a part of my vocabulary in the making of music.

What’s your take on the recent phenomenon of androgynous or transsexual models?
A sister to the arts, the fashion world is always looking to push the limits. I think it is brilliant that beauties like Andrej Pejic and Lea T. are idolized and acknowledged globally. I look forward to the day when the transsexual community is seen as normative by the masses.

You’re releasing an EP later this year. What can we expect?
It’s a very dark and romantic collection of songs.  My time in Central America and on the beach by my father’s property in Guatemala inspires the tempo of the EP.  If you can imagine heartbreak in a bottle floating through the Caribbean Sea, it sounds like that.

How did you come up with the concept of posing as sex dolls in your ‘Real Dolls’ photo series?
Since childhood I have been intrigued with dolls. After learning about the Real Doll phenomenon, life-size fetish sex dolls, I continued to research them. It was a spontaneous decision to make work about them, one I never thought I would show publicly.

I’m glad you did. Who’s your favorite character: Luxx, Mimi, Ebony, or Raquel? Do you relate to them on a personal level?
It is dangerous to pick a favorite. I relate to the Dolls just as much as I relate to the fictionalized men I imagine to have bought, dressed, and cared for each of them. The process proved to be uncomfortable in every meaning of the word.

The series is impeccably styled. What influence has fashion and magazines had on your work?
Haute couture in my mother’s Vogue was my first interaction with fine art. My early knowledge of art being ancient artifacts made fashion so much more exciting. Call it drag or dress up, the play of costume is empowering and will always influence my art-making. 

What’s the most luxurious piece of clothing in your closet?
It’s a toss up, but I have a long rabbit fur dress dyed to look like tiger that is quite a showstopper. I came across it in a thrift store in San Francisco and didn’t even know it was real fur because it was such a bargain.

Caught My Eye, exclusively for Hint

We’re thrilled you’ve created an exclusive video for Hint, Caught My Eye. It’s a very voyeuristic and seductive piece. Can you clue us into your inspiration?
Drawn to distortion and ambiguity, I made Caught My Eye to exist as a backdrop for the music featured in the piece, with both its characters and their relationship open to interpretation.

Has anyone told you that you sound like Amy Winehouse?
I shy away from comparisons, but I am hands-down a fan. I started listening to her when I heard Mark Ronson was producing Back to Black. Love him.

What’s next for you?
I am in the midst of beginning a new artistic endeavor, but hesitant to say any more. All I can say at this point is, I am looking for some new wigs.