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Haunting history becomes beautiful art

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Though Monica Mercedes Martinez and her family immigrated to Canada when she was only three, it’s what her family escaped that haunted her through her art.

Now, the Osborne Village resident’s art, a sculpture titled Everyone is Fallen Except Us Fallen… has made her one of five nominees for the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award and a prize of $10,000.

"My sculpture is a reincarnation of my (Master’s program) graduating piece," said Mercedes Martinez, who is one of the first to graduate from the University of Manitoba’s new Masters of Fine Arts program this past spring. "It is hundreds of these cross forms that represent people. This work was two years of thinking about the military coup in Chile."

Mercedes Martinez’s work ended up being very therapeutic for her.

"So what I discovered when I was making the work is that I had a lot of anger that I didn’t realize," said Mercedes Martinez.

Grace Nickel, professor of ceramics at the U of M, nominated Mercedes Martinez for the Emerging Artists Award.

"Monica Mercedes Martinez is bringing something new to contemporary ceramics," Nickel wrote in her statement nominating the artist. "Using heat as both medium and metaphor, she allows the kiln to transform, deform, and freeze her figurative sculptures in time, pushing clay to its limits and beyond."

At the end of the expedition in Toronto, Mercedes Martinez invited visitors to take a piece of the sculpture.

If Mercedes Martinez wins the $10,000 prize wants to give her piece back to Chile.

"I would like to take whatever is left of the piece to Chile and leave it in the desert," said Mercedes Martinez. "Then that will be the end of it for me."

To vote for Mercedes Martinez’s piece, visit http://www.gardinermuseum.on.ca

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