The vibrant, fluid, and complex works of Martin Stensaas can be described as mystical classicism, psychedelic neo-symbolism, or magical figural maximalism. Originally from Salt Lake City, Martin grew up in Utah’s capital and later moved throughout the western United States, including Colorado and Southern and Northern California.
Martin was interested in art at an early age, and was especially fascinated by fantastic and surreal imagery. Martin drew constantly as a child. He was also influenced by the neuroscience research lab where his parents worked. His father’s interest in consciousness and metaphysics was always challenged and enhanced by the thoroughness of the scientific method.
At the age of thirteen, he spent a summer in Washington D.C. going to museums alone all day. Here, he sharpened and deepened his interests by exploring the museums. Surrealism, Renaissance and Baroque painting informed his approach to space and paint. He was also fascinated by natural history and the supernatural legacies of other cultures.
By age fifteen, Martin began to study painting under Earl Jones, a noted Utah landscape and figure painter. “I was very fortunate to have Earl as a teacher. He came from the lineage of the portraitist, Alvin Gittins, so his eye was clear and his paint was concise and honest.”
From this beginning in painting and drawing, Martin formed a body of work in his teen years that earned him a four-year full-tuition scholarship to the University of Utah’s art department. While there, he was especially impressed by V. Doug Snow’s otherworldly approach to landscape, and Frank Anthony Smith’s eclectic realism. After college, Martin worked in product design and illustration as a freelance artist and designer. Later he moved to Mount Shasta in Northern California and joined the Siskiyou Arts Council. Martin has taught life drawing, painting and design to various art groups and art departments in college. His work has been collected internationally and featured in film and festival culture.
Through a series of life events and spiritual experiences, Martin realized part of his calling in life was to help heal people. He studied and became a diagnostic ultrasound technician for several years. He saw the utility of medical images within the context of “seeing into” patients with ultrasound. The shamanic component of converting sound into image and treatment fascinated him. All the while continuing to paint, Martin came to the conclusion that his deeper interest and passion for not only healing others, but honoring his muses lay in making art full time and dedicating his craft to the theme of awakening wellness and life energy.
“That’s why I do it: to capture an echo of that energy, to hypercharge the image with this morphing force, this élan which animates us. It is my prayer that in honoring this energy, it can have a therapeutic effect: to restore one’s style, one’s psychic ground. I want this effect to radiate and enchant the space they are in and the viewers who are in their presence”
He now lives with his family in Costa Rica.