Gallery Artists > Martha Mood Biography :

Martha Mood (1908 - 1972)  Artworks >>

Martha Mood, artist, photographer, and teacher, was born in Oakland, California, on June 21, 1908, the second of three children of August and Martha (Glaser) Wagele, both of whom had immigrated to California from Germany. In 1915 the family moved to San Rafael, California, where Martha attended parochial school and Dominican College High School. From 1926 to 1928 she studied art at the University of California at Berkeley, where she became familiar with Byzantine art and the work of Henri Matisse, both influential on her later work. She studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in 1928–29 and subsequently returned to Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor's degree with honors in 1931. She married John Homsy on the day of her graduation, May 16, 1931, and the couple moved to San Pedro, California, where they lived for nine years. During this period, Martha Homsy developed a toy business after she began making wooden toys for her two daughters. She also began experimenting with photography and provided photographs for a book by Dorothy Baruch, Parents and Children Go to School (1939). In 1940 the Homsys moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where Martha was involved in the production of five photography books on Hawaii. In 1945 the Homsys were divorced, and Martha returned to San Rafael with her daughters. After the war she married Beaumont Mood, a Texas photographer she had met in Hawaii, and settled with him in Dallas. She began ceramics lessons in 1946, but her artistic activities were curtailed by an auto accident in 1947. She suffered serious injuries to her face and jaw that required extensive plastic surgery. In 1952 she and her husband moved to San Antonio, where she developed her métier as a stitchery artist. Initially she worked as an art teacher in public schools and at the San Antonio Art Institute. After a successful collaboration with architect O'Neil Ford, she established a business in which she produced lighting fixtures, fountains, pottery, and other architectural design objects with the help of her husband. The Witte Museum mounted two solo exhibitions of Martha Mood's work during this period, featuring her photographs in 1953 and her ceramic sculptures in 1957. Her involvement with appliqué stitchery was prompted by the fortuitous gift of fabric samples from a designer friend in 1959, at a time when Mood was reading a book on the creative possibilities of stitchery. Her earliest work was quite simple, merely glued arrangements of fabric shapes that nevertheless demonstrated her mastery of composition with color. She later began to experiment with embroidery, which gave an extra dimension of color and texture to the surface of her appliqués. She used a mélange of "found" fabrics such as denim, velvet, silk, lace, old blankets, and used clothes in her wall hangings and amplified the textural richness of her embroidery by using yarns of different width, braid, and twine. Flowers, children, nudes, and wild and domestic animals were frequent themes in her wall hangings; she also made ecclesiastical banners and abstract works inspired by Matisse's cut-outs and the cubist collages of Picasso and Braque. Texas themes were reflected in works such as The Alamo (before 1968), Campfire (1963), Roundup (1965), Mexican Wedding (n.d.), and Hemisfair (1968). San Antonio's Mexican-American community was an important source of color and design in her work. In her appliqué compositions, Mood used shallow space and expressively simplified form, both characteristic of modernism. She favored human subjects because "something beyond mere decoration is touched upon . . . deeper feelings and a sense of drama can be wonderfully achieved through the warmth and richness of the various fabrics." In Profile (1969), for example, she used lace, nylon hose, glittering mesh, and printed fabrics for an evocative portrait of a Mexican-American woman. She was masterly

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