Martin Settle, Artist

I am a writer and an assemblage artist. My childhood was spent in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River, Quincy, Illinois. This area was steeped in the mythology of Mark Twain, being only 15 miles from his hometown, Hannibal, Missouri, and I was influenced greatly by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Quincy is a decaying city and to the stranger, a place to be quickly skirted. But for me this decay was the enchantment of rusty objects found in alley ways and driftwood from the river. This small place on the planet has informed my deepest artistic endeavors.

Three great loves of my life are my wife Deborah, my daughter Hannah, and words. As Oscar Wilde would say, “Between me and life there is a mist of words always.” As a poet, I have published four books, The Teleology of Dunes (Main Street Rag, 2015), Coming to Attention: developing the habit of haiku (Main Street Rag, 2016), The Backbone Alphabet (Xlibris, 2017), and Maple Samaras (Wild Leek Press, 2018). I have won The Poetry of Courage Award (North Carolina Poetry Society), the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award, and the Griffin-Farlow Haiku Award.

Since my retirement from teaching at UNC Charlotte, I have added to my artistic endeavors assemblage art. My childhood love for found pieces of junk has turned into the joy of making art out of this stuff. You can often find me pulling to the side of the road or dumpster diving for “treasures” others have thrown away. I have shown my work at Ciel Gallery, McColl Center, Elder Gallery, Gallery C3, Hart-Witzen gallery, Quincy University, and UNC Pembroke.

Assemblage Artist Statement

I am an assemblage artist, which means I make assemblages (sculptures) out of found objects, junk, and garage sale items. Unlike many assemblage artists, my assemblages are conceptually based; that is, each of my pieces is a habitat for an idea. With upcycled objects, I like to build speculative sculptures about social issues, science, history, mythology, psychology, philosophy, etc. As an example of how I work, my piece “Descartes Dream,” which is featured on my website homepage, shows how I mix the philosophical with everyday objects. The picture on the website is a view of the inside of a black box (40” by 24” by 30”). The viewers stick their head into the black box, which is like looking into the early cameras with the photographer’s head draped by a black cloth. The inner world the viewer sees in the box is made from castaway mirrors, detailing tape, Christmas lights that cycle through various phases, and glass objects that I picked up at garage sales.

These elements represent a dream that René Descartes’ actually had about a grid world. Descartes changed the medieval world from thinking about eternity to thinking about infinity. When viewers look inside my box, they can see themselves on grid mirrors and LED lights that go off into infinity and, thus, participate with the senses the cosmos as conceived by René Descartes.