Old family photographs have long been a deep inspiration and nearly endless resource for my artwork. These images of close kinfolk and distant relatives are icons for me, symbols of a Native American identity that is not seen as “traditional,” but is just as valid and vital to me—a tradition of Indian Christianity and mission schools that has been a part of my family history for generations.

I base many of my works on photographs that belonged to my full blood Indian grandmother, my aunts, my mother—images found in shoeboxes, forgotten in the bottoms of drawers, or found among the tattered black pages of old leather-bound photo albums. The photographs have very personal meanings for me as the artist, but I have found also that there is an almost universal recognition among viewers of a sense of history and identity, evoking memories of their own family’s past.

My art aims to return the viewer to a specific moment in time—not a monumental or historic moment, just a simple, personal moment in one man’s family history. While it may be possible to peel back or peer around the layers in these works to reveal deeper intent, it may be just as possible to look at these works and think about a favorite aunt or Granny’s old Ford truck.

My hope is for my art to become like an old family photograph—perhaps cherished, perhaps stuffed in a box in the attic—but always able to evoke memories every time it is viewed.

Bobby C. Martin

Tahlequah, Oklahoma

March 2014


Muscogee (Creek) artist Bobby C. Martin was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma in 1957. After an early career as a musician and recording studio owner, Martin turned to visual art and returned to school. He received a BA degree from Northeastern State University in 1992, and an MFA in printmaking from the University of Arkansas in 1995. While at Arkansas, Martin was awarded a Professional Development Fellowship from the College Art Association that led to his employment at Gilcrease Museum in 1995. While at the Gilcrease, Martin served as graphic design coordinator, where he created signage and various printed materials for publication.

In 2000, Martin received an appointment as Assistant Professor of Art at his alma mater, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. He was named Art Program Coordinator in 2003, and received a promotion to Associate Professor in 2005. In Fall 2008, Martin accepted a position of Associate Professor of Visual Arts at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where he currently teaches printmaking and studio art foundations courses.

Working out of his rural Tahlequah studio space, 7 Springs Studio, Martin creates artwork that is exhibited and collected internationally. His work has been featured in exhibitions ranging from Who Stole the Teepee, a traveling exhibition organized by ATLATL and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, to Something More Than ‘Art’: Handworks by American Indians held at the Utsunomiya Museum of Art in Japan. His work is in the permanent collections of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, the Southern Plains Indian Museum, the Philbrook Museum, the Gilcrease Museum and the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma. His most recent solo exhibition was at the Oklahoma State Capitol, entitled Back in the Day.

More recently Martin has begun curating exhibitions. His latest curatorial project, entitled Indian Ink: Printmakers from the Dr. J.W. Wiggins Collection of Native American Art consisted of over 50 works by contemporary Native printmakers and was displayed at the Sequoyah National Research Center Gallery in Little Rock, Arkansas.