Enrique Martinez Celaya

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Enrique Martínez Celaya
Enrique Martinez Celaya.jpg
Martínez Celaya in Miami studio, 2013
Born (1964-06-09) June 9, 1964 (age 51)
Palos, Nueva Paz, Cuba
Nationality Cuban
Education Cornell University (B.S. 1986)
University of California, Berkeley (M.S. 1989)
University of California, Santa Barbara (M.F.A. 1994)
Website martinezcelaya.com

Enrique Martínez Celaya (born June 9, 1964) is a contemporary artist who works in painting, sculpture, photography, poetry, and prose, presented in contexts known as "environments." His artistic work examines the complexities and mysteries of individual experience, particularly in its relation to nature and time, and explores the question of authenticity revealed in the friction between personal imperatives, social conditions, and universal circumstances. These examinations often result in comprehensive projects addressing memory, familiarity, attachment, love, death, and longing. Although his thinking is influenced by literature and philosophy, his work regards the subjective experience of everyday life rather than the nature of trends in cultural practices.

Early life and education[edit]

Tower of Snow, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Martínez Celaya was born on June 9, 1964, in Palos, Nueva Paz, Cuba.[1][2][3] The family relocated to Madrid, Spain in 1972, and he took up drawing at the age of eight.[3][4][5] In 1975, the family relocated again, this time to Puerto Rico.[5] In Puerto Rico from age 11, he had been apprenticed to Bernardo Mayol.[3][5]

Martínez Celaya moved to upstate New York in 1982 to study applied physics and electrical engineering at Cornell University.[3][5] He graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in 1986.[2][3] He later attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he enrolled in the quantum electronics Ph.D. program.[5] He worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory, patented four laser inventions, and earned his M.S. at Berkeley in 1989, but he left the university prior to earning his Ph.D. to pursue his love of art.[2][3][4][5]

Martínez Celaya enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated with a M.F.A. in 1994 with highest honors.[2][3] After graduation, he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.[3]


Work and selected exhibitions[edit]

Martínez Celaya uses simple imagery heavy with symbolism, such as a solitary human figure in the landscape, birds, deer, rainbows, dogs, and apples heavy with snow. Despite these representational images, his work resists narrative and moves towards the iconic. It draws from the prose of Jorge Luis Borges, Herman Melville, and Lev Tolstoy; the poetry of Paul Celan, Osip Mandelstam, Harry Martinson, and José Saramago; the philosophy of Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, Hegel, and Ludwig Wittgenstein; the paintings of Velasquez, Caspar David Friedrich, and Ferdinand Hodler; Kurt Schwitters's Hanover Merzbau; the social practice of Joseph Beuys and Paulo Freire; the films of Andrei Tarkovsky; and the music of Bach.

A Wasted Journey, A Half-Finished Blaze, Galleri Andersson/Sandström, Stockholm, Sweden

A Wasted Journey, A Half-Finished Blaze, Galleri Andersson/Sandström, Umeå, Sweden (2014): The exhibition showcases five new paintings and a sculpture of a bronze boy encrusted with large jewels crying onto a bed of pine needles. The work is a continuation of the artist's exploration of memory, suffering, longing for radiance, loneliness, and the possibility of art to be relevant to life.

The Pearl, SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico, (2013): This immersive environment in the gallery's 15000 square feet includes painting, sculpture, video, photography, waterwork, sound, and writing, as well as the artist's first musical arrangement. Citing aspects of the domestic as well as of the epic, of the small arcs of individual histories as well as the big arc of time, the environment unearths memories seemingly left behind, and through this unearthing intimates there are secrets inherent in everything, particularly the familiar.

Boy with Horse, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NewYork

The Crossing, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, New York (2010): This series of four monumental paintings, made especially for and in response to the nave of the cathedral, tests art's metaphysical and ethical potential.

Daybreak, L.A. Louver, Venice, California (2009): The environment consists of thirteen paintings and two sculptures that use the relationship of the solitary human figure to the vast and stark landscape to reflect on the nature and structure of experience, recollection, and aspiration.

Nomad series in progress in Miami studio

Nomad, Miami Art Museum, Miami, Florida (2007): The exhibition consisted of five large-scale, oil-and-wax paintings, which explore issues of exile and rootlessness through the seasons. Inspired by the works of Swedish poet and Nobel Prize laureate Harry Martinson, the paintings evoke a dream-like state of suspension in which the exile lives: time passes and yet nothing changes.

Coming Home, the Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2006): A re-installation and re-interpretation of Coming Home (2000), this sculptural group that consists of a boy and a gigantic deer. It was donated to the museum by well-known German collector Dieter Rosenkranz in honor of the University of Nebraska's commitment to Martínez Celaya's work. The sculpture group was presented within an ambitious photographic environment.

Schneebett, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.

Schneebett, Berliner Philharmonie in Berlin, Germany (2004): The final stage in the artist’s Beethoven cycle, this large-scale installation uses Beethoven's deathbed as a means to reflect on the integrity of life decisions in confrontation with the finality of death. The project also included performances by the orchestra and a public lecture sponsored by the American Academy in Berlin. The installation was recreated as the inaugural exhibition for the Rosenkranz Kubus at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Germany (2006). With its focus on human frailty, it served as a counterpoint to Max Klinger's sculpture of Beethoven as a nationalist hero which is on view nearby.

Enrique Martinez Celaya is represented in Europe by Galeria Joan Prats (Barcelona) and Galleri Andersson/Sandström (Stockholm); in the United Kingdom by Parafin (London); and in the United States by L.A. Louver (Venice, California), John Berggruen Gallery (San Francisco), and Jack Shainman (New York).


Martínez Celaya was awarded the Brookhaven National Laboratory Fellowship (1986–1988), and was Interdisciplinary Humanities Fellow and Regents Fellow from the University of California (1992–94). He received Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Art Here and Now Award (1998), the Hirsch Grant (2002), the Rosa Blanca Award from the Cuban Community (2002), and the California Community Foundation Fellowship, Getty Foundation Award (2004). He was honored with the Inaugural Colorado Contemporary Arts Collaborative Artist Residency at the CU Art Museum, sponsored by Kent and Vicki Logan (2004). He also received the Anderson Ranch Arts Center National Artist Award (2007). Recent awards include the Knight Foundation Grant (2013), and he was named Montgomery Fellow, Dartmouth College (2014), as well as the Cecil and Ida Green Honors Chair, Texas Christian University (2014).


In 1994, Martínez Celaya was appointed assistant professor of art at Pomona College[3] and the Claremont Graduate University, where he taught until 2003, when he resigned his tenured position of associate professor. He continues to be a popular and influential teacher throughout the country. He is currently a faculty member and board member at the well-known Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass Village, Colorado. He was also appointed visiting presidential professor at the University of Nebraska (2007–2010), where he was to develop interdisciplinary conversations between artistic, religious, scientific, philosophical, and literary practice. In addition to these appointments, Martínez Celaya has lectured at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Aspen Institute, Joslyn Museum of Art (Omaha, Nebraska), Miami Art Museum, Denver Art Museum, Hope Center (Richmond, Virginia), and the Berliner Philharmonie and the American Academy in Berlin.

Whale and Star Press[edit]

Martínez Celaya founded Whale and Star in 1998, a publishing house that specializes in art and its relationship to other intellectual and creative fields, especially literature and philosophy. The University of Nebraska Press serves as Whale and Star's primary distributor.

Martínez Celaya also created the watercolors for a children's book, The Return of the Storks, written by Lorie Karnath and published through Akira Ikeda Gallery in Berlin.

Personal life[edit]

Martínez Celaya has three children, Gabriela, Sebastian, and Adrian Marcos, with wife, Alexandra.[1][4][6] They reside in Delray Beach, Florida.[4][6]


  1. ^ a b Williams, Christian (June 11, 2006). "AN EVER WIDER WORLD / Enrique Martínez Celaya". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). Retrieved August 27, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "ENRIQUE MARTÍNEZ CELAYA". http://www.lalouver.com. Retrieved August 27, 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harth, Marjorie. "Portrait of the Artist: Enrique Martínez Celaya". http://www.pomona.edu. Archived from the original on September 10, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d Finkel, Jori (November 21, 2008). "Layers of Devotion (and the Scars to Prove It)". The New York Times (New York City). Retrieved August 27, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Gonzalez, Gaspar (December 2005). "The Escape Artist" (PDF). Boca Raton (Boca Raton, Florida). Retrieved August 27, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Greenwood, Chelsea (November 2009). "Art of Conversation" (PDF). Boca Raton (Boca Raton, Florida): 118–123. Retrieved August 27, 2015. 

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