p l a t o o n [#3] by Jesse Wright
During the holidays my attention turns to those in the military among others. And well, art, music and the environment are always on my mind so I decided to ask my former schoolmate, the incredibly passionate artist Marthalicia Matarrita, a few questions about the unique position of an artist in the military.
She is one of the founders M-Squared Art Productions; a collective grounded in the four elements of hip-hop. M-Squared integrates art and music into the party landscape of New York city with Marthalicia’s specialty in live painting. In this interview she explains how she managed to express herself in the military with her boots.
Madam Toussaint: Please state your branch or the military, your rank and your years of service.
Marthalicia Matarrita: Army National Guard, 91 Bravo Combat Medic. I enlisted on October 1999, and received my HONORABLE DISCHARGE papers on 2005, ending rank: e-4 Specialist. (6 years Active Reserve, and then 2 years inactive for emergency purposes, in case of a home war).
Were you ever in war when you were in the military?
I was called for duty while I was in college in New Paltz, on September 11, 2001 and I was mobilized at my military Unit ground, stationed in Yonkers for three weeks. 342 Forward Support Battalion.
I was activated to join another military medical team on 2004, heading to Iraq: but never left, due to change on my papers and far too many valuable medics and no reserved ones here on U.S. ground.
Were you able to produce art while in the military? Was it encouraged or discouraged?
I remember boot camp, last week of training, where all the hard core physical and mental training past, and the recovery began, I remember the sergeants grouped our platoon together, and made a pow wow on the polished floors of our barracks, as we cleaned our m16’s.
This unique talk or get to know your sergeants/ soldiers day, prompted the sergeants curiosity and he asked around the room, our real reason why we joined the military. Many I have overheard, enlisted for college tuition, as I did. Others enlisted because of the adventure. And a few were there because their parents forced them into it.
It was my turn to reveal my intent and reasoning of wearing these boots, and I told them the following:
I joined because of the G.I. Bill and the ability to help me through college.
“What is your major in school?”
I said “ART”.
Many turned and looked at me in a confused way. ART? Doing what with that? Not a lawyer, doctor? banker? etc ART?
Young girl you could have done that with out the aid of the military.
The elder sergeants started to laugh and pointed at another soldier and continued to ask around the room. I sat there looking up at him, and feeling laser then I came in. As if the importance of me joining wasn’t valued the same as those that were joining for the above degree.
I didn’t talked about my career after A.I.T (Advance Initial Training), and joined my reservist unit in Yonkers New York. I doodled here and there, but to many it was just that: doodling. We didn’t have enough time of our own or a place to make art.
TIME WAS VALUABLE even for the laid back National Guard unit that I was in. You just can’t do nothing, even if you cleaned the main floors 5 times, you have to do the same floor over and over again. It didn’t made any sense to me, but for them, a soldier not doing something productive was a useless soldier. Art was as equal to the being useless.
“FRIDA OF BROOKLYN” by Alex Bershaw
Because she’s that cool Marthalicia can dress up like legendary artist Frida Khalo in Brooklyn, NY. Check out those boots!”
Do you feel being an artist gave you a different perspective on things while you were in the military?
I am not sure how to answer that because all soldiers had different perspectives and backgrounds, but I have to add, that there was one significant thing that did separate me from the others and it was “style”. ha ha ha.
We were all given regulated military issued clothing. Upon our reservist status and the not so strict commands, I placed it upon myself to buy a new pair of military boots, but the ones I chose were restricted. (They were the green JUNGLE BOOTS that I wore while I was on Ground Zero, and the many art programs as well). I bought them anyway, and wore them at FORMATION. Since then I saw my boots as a symbol of my FREEDOM of choice the freedom of expression by using non military issue uniform into my attire. Weird but true.
Thanks so much Marthalicia. For more on Marthalicia Matarrita check out at marthaliciaart.blogspot.com
January 11, and January 14, 2010. Showing Marthalicia’s art with Lexi Bella the curator, and then a SOLO art show at Fresthetic Brooklyn. Tshirts and prints will be sold.
Marthalicia is working on a documentary about the process through which art is created through Marthalicia and her circle of artist friends.
The documentary is still in process. Part two will be announced soon for those that want to participate. Stay tuned for more on Marthalicia’s “Artist Process” documentary.