the ethereal style of martha spak
By: Zoe Rastegar
FROM CORPORATE TO CREATIVITY
Martha Spak, the owner of Martha Spak Gallery, is a self- taught artist who finds creativity through her own experiences everywhere. Spak is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She began painting more than 20 years ago when she retired from her corporate career with Discovery Communications. She then discovered art was a passion where she
could share her vision of the world around her. Spak is best known for her ethereal landscapes and soft abstract paintings. Her painting style is appropriately known as ethereal because the images are original, delicate and divine. She began painting in oils and now paints mostly with acrylics. Her paintings immediately project elegance and tranquility. Spak’s personality exudes the same calmness and composure as seen in her paintings. She comes across as a serene and tranquil lake complete in itself. Each stroke of her brush is placed with purpose on the canvas. Colors, highlights and content are contemplative and peaceful. Spak’s paintings are created with soft edges and soothing colors. She calls her work “soft paintings” because she likes a soft edge. Spak
creates landscapes, seascapes and abstracts that are uplifting and connect with the viewer. “I think my artistic style resonates with what people are looking to have in their homes,” Spak said.
Spak’s real pleasure and joy is in the process of creating from a blank canvas. She creates art to present a positive, uplifting point of view. She is gifted in finding and capturing the beauty in nature and likes to create a little whimsy and wonderment to give a viewer “an unexpected reprieve from the ordinary.”
Spak’s earliest influences in art and her inspiration to become an artist is rooted in her relationship with her talented grandmothers who each have a love for painting.
“Both encouraged me to paint alongside them when we spent time together,” Spak recalled. Although they had two different personalities and artistic styles, Spak inherited the best of both: the structure and discipline from the paternal side, and the freestyle, emotions and patience from the maternal grandmother.
She remembers watching both of her grandmothers create. Watching the process eventually made her realize creating art is what she wanted to do.
“I was inspired to continue when I sold my first painting and received an award. For me, it was validation to continue painting,” Spak said. “I realized that creating was a passion and my future career.”
For the past 25 years, she has been painting professionally, and recently, she has started sculpting. Spak loves to experiment with new mediums and loves learning about different art materials.
During the early pandemic, she sculpted from gypsum for a series of female figures entitled, “Bird Ladies.” More recently she has started sculpting large format abstract metal forms.
One of her metal sculptures was juried into “SHINE,” a show at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Art Center in Solomons, Maryland. The show runs June 11 to Aug. 30, 2021. Another of her large-scale ceiling sculptures is currently installed in her gallery at the Wharf.
According to Spak, during the early pandemic shutdown and as people were staying close to home, there was a surge in interest with people wanting to refresh their home with art. Zoom made it very easy to communicate with clients and became an excellent tool to cater to their needs, such as presenting art selections and showing art placement possibilities.
The gallery eventually reopened with safety protocols in place and restarted the in-person exhibitions. Spak feels very fortunate that visitors have come to the gallery eager to learn about new artists and their works.
One of the major areas of Spak’s artistic endeavors is curating exhibitions at Martha Spak Gallery at the Wharf, where she exhibits the work of local artists along with her own work.
Spak finds curating exhibitions fulfilling and fun. She explained that it is a chance for her to showcase local artists and offer community engagement opportunities such as art demonstrations, artist
talks and workshops. She sends out a monthly newsletter to those who have signed up and are interested in events at the gallery. People can sign up to stay connected to the gallery events through
the website and sign up page as well.
She curated over 50 exhibits, and she has exhibited over 140 artists through solo and group shows since opening of the gallery in 2017. She invites only local artists to the gallery, and she selects artists with an eye for unique artistic viewpoints. She loves meeting Wharf visitors and clients who are interested in adding new art to their collections. Spak finds many artists, mostly mid- career artists, who are looking for opportunities to show their work, but she exhibits artists from early career to seasoned professionals. One of her best-selling artists happens to be 85 years old.
She also organizes special projects to help young artists or students who would be interested in learning about the stages of an art project.
“When I was the finalist for a DC School Mural project, I invited a DC high school student to help in its creation,” Spak said.
She believes there are other ways to promote local artists besides the exhibitions at the gallery, and she likes to connect artists with art opportunities. For instance, she has shared an art grant opportunity with several artists who showed at the gallery. One artist was awarded significant grant money toward an art project. Sometimes she even collaborates with artists whom she has met through the gallery shows. Spak is always ready and willing to work with artists who have mutual goals and a professional attitude.
When asked what message she’d share with young artists, Spak said: “My advice to young artists is to focus on creating your best work, set your goals and believe in yourself.”
Through distribution channels, Spak’s work has appeared on movie sets and several television series’, such as House of Cards and Good Girls, among many national publications.
Reproductions of her work are sold through catalogues like Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, William Sonoma and other national retailers.
Our congratulations to Spak for growing her business in spite of the pandemic. Her expanding business toward corporate clients and site specific public art projects are keeping her busy, but she is always enthusiastic to take on new projects! Spak lives in Potomac, Maryland, with her husband, and they have two children. Her work can be purchased through her website or by direct sale at the gallery.
Follow her on Instagram and Facebook for regular art updates. Martha Spak Gallery is located at 60 District Square, SW, Washington, DC 20024 and is open Thursday –Sunday 12-6 and by appointment. To contact Spak, email her GalleryDirector@MarthaSpak.com.