A man of many talents; Martell is a Capoeira instructor, a dancer, a visual artist, an art curator and a gallery owner. Martell's creativity is rooted in various forms of inspiration, such as African Art and Culture, Afro-Brazilian Art, and Martial Art of Capoeira. Although Martell is constantly creating, he also dedicates a great deal of his time to promoting emerging artists through visual arts exhibitions and pop-ups. "I have a goal to open a larger space for creatives to showcase/sell their artwork!" - Martell

Martell Oliver

Philadelphia, PA

Tell us about yourself
My name is Martell Oliver. I am a Capoeira teacher, a visual artist, an art curator, and gallery owner.

What kind of art do you do?
I create Abstract Cubist Paintings, Cubist Illustrations, and Physical & Digital Collages.

How did you get started & how long have you been doing it?
I began creating art to express the movements and ideas from the Martial Art of Capoeira. I’ve been creating art for 4 years now.

What or who inspired you?
I am constantly inspired by the ability to create artwork of my co-workers and family members who dedicate their lives to African and Afro-Brazilian Art forms.

How do you work?
I work at a really steady pace. I like to create and let my ideas dwindle in my mind before putting them onto any kind of canvas. I’m usually on the road so I’ve adapted to creating wherever. My ideal location to create is at home, with some black coffee and music playing.

How has your practice changed over time?
I would have to say that the biggest change in my practice is the time spent on works. For the longest time, I would work with the idea that the work had to be produced now. I now enjoy the sometimes frustrating process that comes along with developing bodies of work.

What’s integral to your work as an artist?
The integrity of the work.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
Professionally my goal has very little to do with my own art. I have a goal to open a larger space for creatives to showcase/sell their artwork! This home-style gallery will host events, long-term exhibitions, weekly art classes, workshops, and house national and international guests.

What is your dream project?
I'm appreciative of each opportunity that is granted to me. Although I don’t have a dream project per say. I’d love to work with a museum to curate a collage exhibition.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to and why.
I’d rather not be compared to any artists. I think what makes me unique as an artist is that I can be myself and the many versions of myself. Martell as the Capoeira dancer/teacher, Martell as the musician and also Martell as the visual artist. I would love to have a documentation of comparing/contrasting just that.

What message would you like to convey through your art?
I’d like to convey two messages. Find yourself and Love yourself. I want to challenge my viewers and supporters to find balance in the uncomfortable situations in their life and to find self-love throughout the process. 

What artwork do you most identify with?
As a curator, I really identify with Early Modern Art as it showcases European life in its most vulnerable stages. Artists and people of color have been either completely left out of most traditional bodies of art or left within the shadows. I’d love to see a collection evolved from Early Modern Art - Modern Art as seen from the African lens prior and post North American times.

What obstacles have you had with getting more people to know about your work? What obstacles have you faced as an artist?
In the beginning of my art journey, I taught Capoeira inside of an Arts League with a very reputable gallery inside. As an employee, I approached them about having my artwork featured in the gallery or even renting the gallery to run my own exhibition, they let me know that artworks are selected by a committee to be featured. I’ve also run into similar situations with inquiring to rent Art Galleries within the Philadelphia area.

What’s your favorite piece from your collection?
I cannot say that I have a favorite piece from my collection. I am very fond of all the pieces in the NOTEWORTHY digital collage collection.

Where does your inspiration come from when you are working? Do you have different inspirations for each piece?
As stated previously, I am very inspired by the greater community of African Arts and Culture that I am apart of. I don’t think that I would create such works if I were not immersed in African Culture. Wholeheartedly, the culture inspires what I create but most pieces have specific influences.

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with the most?
I don’t have a favorite element of art. I believe that with my life, all things that I dwell in seem to help build each element up. I always say “One hand washes the other, both wash the face.”

How do you know when an artwork is finished?
I am confident that a piece of art is finished when I am sure that it is something that I could live with, without wanting to give it away or throw it in the trash.

Do you pursue themes?
I try my best not to pursue themes. It’s my goal to be ever-changing and fluid with creation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I have ever been given was to “do me.” I’ve always taken that as to stay true to the style of art that I am passionate about and only change on my terms. 

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
I’d like you all to know that I dedicate a great portion of my time to promoting emerging artists through visual arts exhibitions and pop-ups. Artists who are serious about grouting their crafts and taking the steps to become living artists are welcome to visit Philadelphia to participate in our monthly events. Works can be submitted on phillyartshow.com. If you all enjoy any of my work, pieces can also be obtained through phillyartshow.com.