A Conversation With: Lilian Martinez

Allow us to reintroduce A Conversation With, an inspired space featuring the stories of the people in our community we long admire. Kicking off our renewed series is Lilian Martinez, fine artist and designer of BFGF. Below she shares a glimpse of her studio and intuitive, joyful approach to work and life. 
Tell us about yourself. Can you share more about your background? How did you end up in LA and your current work?
I grew up in Chicago and went to SAIC to study photo. I still use photo as a way to document and share work. I didn't really start learning about art until later in life. Even in college, I felt like I couldn't fully wrap my mind around it. 
I moved to Los Angeles with my husband. We saved up money for about 2 years to make the cross country trip. He worked a photo job where they shot in Los Angeles in the winter. I would tag along and got to explore a bit. I just really like the plants and fruit and colors. It seemed like an exciting place to be.
How did you decide to separate your work as Lilian Martinez versus BFGF? How do you balance the two?
It happened pretty organically. They both started at different times for different reasons. I started BFGF when I lived in Chicago about 11-12 years ago. I wanted to make pieces that could be used and worn. I was really interested in designing textiles. I was trying to figure out how to do that. And it evolved into accessible art objects.
I started painting when I moved to Los Angeles in 2014-2015. It was just something I wanted to try and I really ended up loving it. It felt fun and freeing and healing. 
You've built a following so organically and genuinely and have been involved with collaborations from large corporations to local organizations. What does community mean to you?
I'm shy and introverted in bigger groups of people. My energy just kind of gets zapped when I feel uncomfortable. 
Being able to share my work online I think has helped me create a sense of community and make connections with people. A community can create space and support in a way that feels safe.
Seeing as your studio is in your home, how do you separate work and life and maintain that line?
I don't worry about separating it too much. My practices nurture my interests. I enjoy thinking about art and being inspired in my everyday life.
Having to take a few steps outside to get to my studio creates a nice subtle boundary for me. Not having a commute frees up time to relax or work more whatever I'm in the mood for.
What do you like to wear when you work?
I wish I could wear more things while I work actually. I try to take care of the clothing I have. So I'm cautious of getting paint on it. I have dedicated painting clothes. 
Lately I like to wear a Deiji matching white linen short and button up set that I've had for 4-5 years now. It's so comfortable. Clothing is important to me and my comfort level. I like sets that feel like a uniform, but also like pajamas. 
Your artwork has been translated into various mediums from knit to clay...how do you decide what form an idea will take? Is there a medium you want to explore or get more involved in?
I usually can picture the medium in my mind when I get an idea. I'm focused on painting right now. Maybe exploring oil paints would be nice.
One thing I admire most about you is your calm confidence. How do you tune out social noise and trend?
Oh thanks :*), that's a nice compliment. I've been spending less time online. I feel like there is a transition happening, and I'm slowly learning to navigate it. 
Your creations often feature brown bodies taking space alongside recurring motifs of classic symbols, elements from nature, pop culture iconography, etc. Why is this important? Is racial and gender representation something you're conscious of as you work? What do you want the viewer to take away?
I celebrate things that I think are beautiful and humorous in my work. I don't really think about it conceptually while I’m working.
In retrospect, I think I wanted to create space for brown bodies like my own to take up space comfortably, safely, and peacefully. 
What do you like to do to unwind and recharge?
I like taking baths, hiking, going to museums, watching tv from bed, and eating.
What has been inspiring you as of late?
Homemade french fries, shades of green, wearing Pleats Please pants. I'm looking forward to cooler temps.
Featured in this story:
Harmony Tee by Find Me Now
Cleo Bag by Camille Albertine