“I make art to communicate ideas to people.
To make them stop and think.”
— Martynka Wawrzyniak
Martynka Wawrzyniak, born 1979 in Warsaw, Poland, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY as a conceptual, multi-media artist whose research-based projects involve experimentation with nontraditional materials which engage the audience through sensory experience. Her most recent work is a socially-engaged public art project, Ziemia, which involved her community in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in a therapeutic process of reconciliation with their individual migratory stories and takes the form of a ceramic sculpture in a native plant meadow in McGolrick Park. Her past exhibitions include Feed (2014) and Smell Me (2012) at envoy enterprises, NY and have been featured in publications such as The Art Newspaper, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. Additionally, as a freelance editor for Rizzoli she has produced numerous exceptional books including fashion industry favorites such as Chloë Sevigny, Mark Borthwick’s Not in Fashion, Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent, Purple Anthology: Art Prose Fashion Music Architecture Sex, Glen Luchford’s Pictorialism, and Karlheinz Weinberger’s Rebel Youth. For more of Martynka’s work visit martynka.com and ziemia.nyc.
Martynka was one of ISSUE’s co-founders back in late 90s in NYC and actively participated in creating our first nine issues from our first edition. We continued to collaborate on many projects over the years. Martynka was passing through LA working on the development of a couple new book projects right as the new ISSUE T-Shirts had finally been produced. I took advantage of this opportunity to shoot a few pics in the office hallway studio of her wearing the shirts and include her in our new T-Shirt portrait series. Maybe a limited edition artist collaboration t-shirt will be coming soon.
Where are you from?
I was born in Poland, immigrated to New Zealand when I was eight years old and have lived in New York for the past 21 years.
Give five different answers to “what do you do?”
1. I make art
2. I re-wild city parks by growing meadows
3. I create books for Rizzoli Publications
4. I climb rocks or plastic at the gym if I’m trapped in the city
5. I escape to the wilderness anytime I can
What’s your story of getting started as an artist?
My high school art history teacher got me obsessed with conceptual art and I knew that I must come to New York and somehow figure out what it is that I could do to add my own two cents. It took a while to get the courage to start. Being the editor of the first incarnation of Issue Magazine exposed me to the art world in NYC and allowed me to meet some of the artists who were my heroes.
What do you like most about this line of work?
I wouldn’t really call being an artist “a line of work.” If it was work I would make money. I make art to communicate ideas to people. To make them stop and think. It is gratifying when people engage and connect with what I am putting out there. My current public art project in McGolrick Park in Greenpoint also makes the bees and squirrels happy which is even more gratifying. The piece takes the form of a ceramic orb sitting in a wild meadow. The orb is glazed with soil from around the world, contributed by Greenpoint residents, whom I invited to consider locations symbolically meaningful to their identities.
Being the editor of the first incarnation of Issue Magazine exposed me to the art world in NYC and allowed me to meet some of the artists who were my heroes.
— Martynka Wawrzyniak
You have also edited some pretty amazing books for Rizzoli. Which books have been the most exciting to work on and why?
My favorite book projects are obviously those which I discover and develop and get very creatively involved in. The book which I am currently sending to print, Climbing Rock, is very close to my heart as it is a photographic survey of rock climbing in North America. It features photography by Francois Lebeau and comes out in September 2019. I got into rock climbing a year and a half ago and got instantly hooked.
I am also very proud of Garden Wild, by photographer Andre Baranowski, which is releasing this month. A gorgeous book of un-manicured, wild meadow style gardens in America.
Some of my other fave older titles:
Karl Heinz Weinberger – Rebel Youth
Mark Borthwick – Not in Fashion
What to Eat for How You Feel – Ayurvedic cookbook by Divya Alter
“My dream is to buy a big van and convert it to a house on wheels and travel around the country.”
— Martynka Wawrzyniak
What inspires you?
The wilderness and primal instincts.
Who inspired you most growing up?
Marcel Duchamp. Kurt Cobain.
Do you recall your first favorite t-shirt?
I’ve always loved wearing my boyfriend’s T-shirts. The worn out thread bare ones which smell like them.
What do you do like to do when you are not working?
Escape to wild places and climb rocks and mountains.
I am finally learning how to drive. My dream is to buy a big van and convert it to a house on wheels and travel around the country. Before I take off I am going to extend the native meadow in McGorlick Park thanks to a grant I received.