Enrique Martínez Celaya

Enrique Martínez Celaya (American, born Cuba, 1964), Bird, 1996, oil and fabric on canvas, 72 × 60 1/8 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Council, 6-1997.

Born in Palos, Cuba, Celaya’s family immigrated to Madrid in 1972, and in 1975 to Puerto Rico. He then moved to the United States, where he studied physics before turning to art and earning an MFA from University of California Santa Barbara in 1994. Celaya has turned to nature as a theme throughout his career. Trees, birds, and other elements are often rendered within the vastness of the canvas, giving a sense of both intimacy and alienation. The addition of seemingly disparate elements—including collaged elements, appliqué, slits, or other manipulation of the canvas is a physical device in his work. In this case, the fabric “tassels” at the corners acknowledge the physicality of the work itself.


The artist has noted about this work that the “bird creates a moment for me. It is a demanding painting and a quiet one at the same time… A moment where there is a gap in consciousness or emotion. To me, the painting is moving and it should not be. This is its mystery.”