Martha Rich

Martha Rich

I am a Philadelphia-based artist working in both the commercial and fine art fields. Drawing, painting, using words, while being absurd and funny and having a penchant for painting food is what I do.

My commercial work has been used in music videos, advertising, magazines, book covers and more and I have shown my paintings in galleries across the country and internationally.

Official Biography
Martha Rich lived the typical, suburban life – until she followed her husband to Los Angeles where, just short of a picket fence and 2.5 children her average American life unraveled. To cope with divorce, fate lead her to a class taught by painters and brothers Rob and Christian Clayton. They persuaded her to quit the pantyhose, corporate world, leave her human resources job at Universal Studios behind and become an artist full-time. She graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Her commercial clients include Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Penguin UK, McSweeney’s, Portland Mercury, Y&R, Village Voice, Bon Appetit, San Francisco Chronicle, Henry Holt Publisher, and Country Music TV to name just a few. Her work has been featured in the Beck video “Girl” and a book Sketchbook Expressionism, featuring artwork from her sketchbooks was published by Murphy Design. Rich’s artwork has been shown in galleries throughout the U.S. and internationally.

She is currently living in her hometown of Philadelphia and recently received her MFA in Painting from the University of Pennsylvania. Rich teaches classes at Fashion Institute of Technology, Tyler School of Art and University of the Arts.


My mother got cancer when I was sixteen and died when I was 22. Don’t feel sorry. Bad things happen. Her sickness forced me to realize that people don’t live forever at a time when most kids think they will. This is when I first became hyper-vigilant of the small moments so as not to miss a thing. There is a wig hanging from the shower-head. Drying. Dripping. Impermanence breeds a need to hold on tight for as long as you can. I remember details that I don’t want to tell.

I also came to understand the absurdity of life and to laugh at it.

Let’s try again. Fleeting, silly, serious moments.
Dollar for dollar nobody protects you like Allstate. crunch, crunch, apple, chips
Tell me about your first kiss.
Tonight’s going to be a good night.

Lots of things going on makes it easier for me to pay attention, pulling out tidbits of information. My mind wanders yet holds onto things. It picks out what it wants randomly and saves it for later. My mind has a mind of its own.

A snake and a cake plus taxes.
“I shall manage because I must.”
Eavesdropping spurs ideas.

My art is driven by the stored moments not by logic. It is my own language and sometimes I don’t understand it. It over-analyzes a string of thoughts and consciousnesses till there is no answer and all sides can be correct.

Did it hiss?
This can be frustrating at times.
Can I be invisible and king of the world?

Sometimes I am afraid my art is corporate and bland due to fifteen years spent in cubicles. To survive in a cubicle you have to suppress your rebel. Loan collector, theme park human resources, copyeditor, headhunter, promotion manager, administrative assistant, front desk, fast food, hostess. Artist.

I paint fast, collage, draw, cut things, spray paint on the pages of old books, eschewing the blank white canvas. The blank white canvas is my art equivalent of the cubicle. My art is not precious. It is chit chat, back and forth, reactions, insecurities, bravado, hysteria, defensiveness, repetitions, connections and destructions.

“A rash on your neck. It’s always been there.”
I was in such a panic and paralysis set in.
I don’t know anything after all.
Hopefully they will not catch the snake or if they do they will not kill it.
“The cure for thinkin is livin.” The cure for living is thinking.

If I try to put how I make art into words that make perfect sense to you it won’t be true because I will be trying to please you, so don’t expect it to make perfect sense.

Too much diet coke.
Non-specific anxiety.
“You are like the dalai lama.”

The other day I saw a poster with a quote by Janet Laverriere, a Swiss born designer, activist, and artist, “I am not going to do anything useful anymore, I do not want to, I cannot, so I will do useless things. All of a sudden a new world opened up to me.” Permission to make useless things, comforts. But why do I feel the need for permission? This is a question I am trying to answer. I wish to be a rebel.

I am giving myself permission to make useless art, and by useless I mean driven by impracticality, that is informed by moments quietly noticed and not by what is shouted. What is noticed now has been built upon what was noticed before, creating a chain reaction that forms a diagram or conversation about something bigger, insignificant moments that accumulate and become something significant.

Find out more about the artist www.cargocollective.com/martharich