Won­ders Un­der the Dock

Martha Dodd paints what she loves, com­bin­ing pas­sions into beau­ti­ful works

Gulf & Main - - Contents - BY DAVID ACEVEDO

Very few artists can por­tray their imag­i­na­tive worlds like Martha Dodd can. With im­pec­ca­ble con­trol of the brush, she trans­forms acrylics and oils into mag­nif­i­cent and pow­er­ful scenes of beauty. Mer­maids and uni­corns are among the pro­tag­o­nists of her fan­tas­tic, pic­to­rial tales.

Born in Colum­bus, Ohio, Dodd re­ceived a great deal of en­cour­age­ment from her mother, Joan Water­son, to pur­sue her tal­ents. Water­son was an art teacher and vis­ual artist as well, and thus sparked her young artist daugh­ter’s imag­i­na­tion even fur­ther.

Even though Dodd did not pur­sue for­mal ed­u­ca­tion in art, she found a clever way to com­bine her aca­demic and creative tal­ents. In the win­ter of 1983, she ob­tained a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in an­i­mal sciences from the Ohio State Uni­ver­sity. Dodd then be­gan her ca­reer as an equine phys­i­cal ther­a­pist, work­ing on race­horses. Dur­ing col­lege, how­ever, she took as many art classes as pos­si­ble, know­ing that was the best way to use all of her tal­ents to­ward a ful­fill­ing life.

Through­out the years, Dodd con­tin­ued prac­tic­ing and de­vel­op­ing an ex­ten­sive body of art, which in­cludes lovely un­der­wa­ter scenes and other mar­itime sub­jects. In 2010, she started study­ing with mas­ter painter Dou­glas Flynt, who also re­sides in South­west Flor­ida.

She ad­mires the level of re­al­ism achieved by Flynt in his paint­ings, but Dodd does not fol­low the strict­ness of his creative process. “I am not dis­ci­plined enough to al­ways fol­low his meth­ods, and ev­ery time I make a rule for my­self, I break it,” she ex­plains.

Dodd has im­pres­sive con­trol of her medium, as demon­strated by works such as the beau­ti­ful Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe piece that she donated to the Arts for ACT auc­tion in Novem­ber 2014. “The lessons stay with me, and I find the in­flu­ence ev­i­dent in my work,” Dodd adds. She also trained with artist Stephen As­sael, whose ap­proach to paint­ing con­trasts from Flynt’s ap­proach, yet achieves an in­cred­i­ble re­al­ism as well.

Dodd can and has painted al­most ev­ery imag­in­able sub­ject, in­clud­ing peo­ple, an­i­mals, flow­ers and land­scapes. Her ver­sa­til­ity is ad­mirable. And there is some­thing par­tic­u­larly cap­ti­vat­ing about her un­der­wa­ter por­tray­als. “I chose the un­der­wa­ter sub­jects, such as the mer­maids, be­cause of my in­ter­est in fan­tasy art,” states the artist, whose work can be found in DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts in Fort My­ers.

Dodd wants the spectator to go be­yond the typ­i­cal mer­maid scene and won­der about the story be­hind the sub­ject.

Ev­ery time I make a rule for my­self, I break it.” —Artist Martha Dodd

“I like the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing re­al­ism out of some­thing that I have no ref­er­ence for,” she adds. Dodd ex­plains that she does rely on ref­er­ences, but has to merge im­ages in her mind to cre­ate such fan­tas­tic sub­jects.

Her paint­ing Sur­prise Un­der the Dock is a strik­ing de­pic­tion of a young-look­ing mer­maid, un­der a dock, star­ing at the ob­server with en­chant­ing eyes. The work demon­strates the re­mark­able com­po­si­tion con­trol and style of the artist. Dodd wants the spectator to go be­yond the typ­i­cal mer­maid scene and won­der about the story be­hind the sub­ject. She achieves this by al­low­ing other el­e­ments in the paint­ing to stand out and sug­gest a sit­u­a­tion.

“This is the first piece I have painted of a mer­maid awake—I guess be­cause paint­ing mer­maids is a risky propo­si­tion,” Dodd says. “I don’t want to por­tray them as be­ing overtly sex­ual, al­though they def­i­nitely have ap­peal, and I want them to be as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble. This mer­maid is warm­ing her­self in the late af­ter­noon sun, as busy fid­dler crabs scurry about.”

Vis­ual artist and art teacher Ellen Bianchi knows Dodd’s art­work well. “She cap­tures the feel­ing of be­ing in the wa­ter with her [paint­ings of] mer­maids,” notes Bianchi, who serves as trea­surer of DAAS COOP. She has ad­mired Dodd’s style since Dodd be­gan ex­hibit­ing at the co­op­er­a­tive. “The fluid move­ment and the mas­tery of the artist is what make these mer­maids come to life,” Bianchi says.

On Dodd’s web­site, fol­lowyourartllc.com, she of­fers a va­ri­ety of op­tions for pur­chas­ing her works. Col­lec­tors can browse through hun­dreds of ex­quis­ite im­ages and pur­chase prints of her pieces in var­i­ous sizes.

When asked about her art and fu­ture plans, Dodd tells us: “For many years I have re­lied on my art to sup­port my­self, and still do, so I was not al­ways able to paint what I wanted to. In the past few years, I have had the good for­tune to travel the world, and I have come away with so much in­spi­ra­tion.

“I have many more works of art to cre­ate and I look for­ward to a pro­lific time of paint­ing in my life,” Dodd adds. And we cer­tainly look for­ward to many more of her beau­ti­ful cre­ations. David Acevedo is an award-win­ning vis­ual artist, arts writer, cu­ra­tor and gallery owner liv­ing in Cape Coral. He has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in vis­ual arts from the Uni­ver­sity of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Cam­pus, and owns and man­ages the Union Artist Stu­dios and DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts.

Serene Mer­maid

Man in the Blue Suit Sweet Dreams, Mer­maids

Snowy Egret Plumella

Grace­ful Stal­lion

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