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Meet Sonoma County Artists Martha Channer and Craig Mitchell

The power of two is evident in the creative projects produced by Sonoma County artists Martha Channer and Craig Mitchell. The husband-and-wife team, who are each accomplished artists on their own, design and create dynamic multimedia installations.

Individually, Martha is a contemporary abstract painter who works in latex and acrylic on canvas, and maintains a well-established career as a muralist. Craig creates organically shaped sculpture in a variety of mediums such as found wood, glass, and bronze — often with an electrically lit element as part of the design.

They are also both spatial designers. When creating art installations together they transform spaces into vibrant environments with colorful murals, paintings on canvas, and relief wall elements; combining these with both free-standing and hanging sculpture.

The installations are transcendent and mytho-poetic in concept, suggesting a sanctuary of the imagination, where color, shape, originality, and spatial design have strong evocative powers.

Martha was trained and influenced by what is referred to as The Chicago School; meaning the style and principles of art that thrive in that creative urban environment.

“My mentors were working artists — teachers, parents, and philosophers that believed that art needed to have content, soul, and vision,” she explained. “They were also relentless in the pursuit of originality.”

As an artist and dancer, Martha was profoundly influenced by choreographer Alwin Nikolais, and the installations of Vito Acconci. These are artists whose work she studied in depth while living in Chicago and New York. Nikolais’ use of props and abstract sets combined with dance performance — along with the spatial acuity and complexity of Acconci’s conceptual genius — still deeply inspire and inform her installation and performance art.

Craig and Martha create external environments concerning a variety of concepts that center around inner realities. Psychological, intuitive, and innovative in theme, these installations generate a personal dialogue with the space itself.

 “We are both inspired by the search for profound reality in our art,” Martha explained. “Concept and content in the creation of a new ‘language’ motivates us to keep going deeper into the ideas that we develop as installation artists.”

Craig has lived in Sonoma County for almost 30 years, though he also spent time in Los Angeles and Canada. His work is inspired and informed by the natural materials that are unique to this coastal region. For example, the unique use of driftwood in his art chairs, and the bronze-casting of old growth grape vines for his “Terroir” piece show this close relationship between materials and locale.

Currently they are creating site specific shows and installations for C14 Contemporary Arts, and putting together performance pieces and art installations for museums. You can see their work at www.marthachanner.com, www.c14contemporaryarts.com, and www.gdcagallery.com.

Find more things to do in Sonoma County.

1. Martha and Craig
2. “Transanimation” at C14 Contemporary Arts, installation view
3. “Terroir Table”, by Craig Mitchell

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