‘Martha Invitational’: Three local artists spoof popular art affair

Local artists Leslie Wilkes, Martha Hughes and Diana Simard will host the inaugural “Martha Invitational” open studio event this weekend. Photo courtesy of Martha Hughes.

MARFA — Local artists Leslie Wilkes, Diana Simard and Martha Hughes will host an exhibition of original paintings this weekend titled Martha Invitational, a play on the annual Marfa Invitational art fair that will be occurring simultaneously. 

The trio of local artists will host visitors from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 6, and from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Hughes’ studio, 105 E Oak St., located on the west side of the Marfa Country Clinic.

Free “V.I.P.” tickets, in the form of circular stickers that act as badges — a tongue-and-cheek reference to the Invitational’s $600 VIP program — will also be available. 

“The VIP pass comes with absolutely no benefits. No cocktail parties, no dinners, nothing,” Hughes laughed. 

Hughes, Simard and Wilkes, three Marfa-based artists who regularly get together to talk art and gossip over a glass of wine, conceptualized the event as more than just a fun, lighthearted spoof — it’s also an opportunity to show their most recent work as visitors flock to Marfa for the fair showcasing primarily out-of-town gallerists. 

“It’s an opportunity for locals and visitors to view and collect art that is being made right now by artists who are living and working full time in Marfa,” said Simard. 

Works by each artist hang on Hughes’ studio walls — canvases, flat files, boxes and jars of brushes have been pushed to the side to allow for a flow of visitors into the intimate space. 

Wilkes will show two guache works that reflect her years-long practice of playing with patterns and color, as well as a brand new 6-by-6-foot oil painting.

“This is a trend her work is going [towards], where she’s getting paler and more interesting surface texture,” said Hughes. “She wanted a chance to get [the painting] out of her studio and get it on another wall so she could look at it and get some responses.” 

Hughes will be showing a number of works from her Scenes series, which she describes as depicting “starkly beautiful spaces that evoke uneasy loneliness or peaceful solitude.” 

In the paintings, which are dominated by sharp colors and angles, armchairs act as stand-ins for human subjects, their orientations on the canvas evoking various feelings. In the background of one work, a chair located between a doorway appears to surveille a chair facing the viewer. 

“Some of these recent ones are just playing with colors and spaces,” said Hughes. “They’re ambiguous spaces, and they’re also little psychodramas.” 

Simard’s meticulously painted oil-on-wood works range in size and are mostly based on photographs she has taken of places around Marfa. The paintings, glimpses of life in Marfa, display “fine brushwork” and “lovely surface texture,” according to Hughes. 

“Most of them are Marfa scenes, and they’re very quotidian,” said Hughes. “It’s not the iconic Marfa with the water tower. It’s usually just scenes you would see if you walked around town — everyday scenes.”  

All works will be for sale and the artists are looking forward to the inaugural Martha Invitational, said Hughes. 

“It’ll just be fun to see everybody, see friends and family and maybe a few people from out of town,” said Hughes, who added, with a laugh: “It just takes a few minutes — it’s very small.”

For more information, follow @martha_hughes, @lesliewilkes and @diana_simard on Instagram.