Maria Martinez-Cañas's third solo exhibition at the Julie Saul Gallery combines two bodies of work: the Hortus series, large gelatin silver prints printed as contact prints from her constructed negatives (one of which which will be shown along with the prints) and the small scale color Naturalia series composed on a scanner, which evolved from a commission project. Both series grow out of the 1999 Shadow Garden series of photograms made on diazo (blueprint) paper, which marked a transition to a freer more intuitive and gestural approach to art making. Canas has often been grouped together with Latin American artists, particularly with her early totem works which were strongly connected with Cuban modernist Wifredo Lam. But recently, her voice and style have become more her own, without an easily identifiable relationship with other movements, and more a personal evolution of her experimentation with form and process.
Cañas has also discussed the thematic inspiration for this work from nature as connected with decay, mortality and memory and specifically associated with the loss of a friend and generally derived from a major botanical encyclopedia entitled Hortus Eyestettensis, which is also the name of a legendary garden that grew around a castle.
Andy Grundberg wrote of Martinez-Cañas' photographs in the catalog of her recent retrospective at the Fort Lauderdale Art Museum that they "are among the most visually and semiotically complex images of our time- and even... of the entire history of the photographic medium. They require the kind of sustained attention and interpretation that we are more used to bringing to works of literature...”
Martinez-Cañas has exhibited widely in the United States and abroad, including the residence of the Principal Officer of the American Interest Section in her native Havana, Cuba, and in addition to her recent retrospective she has had solo shows at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston- Salem, and the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona. Among many museums her work is included in the collections of The George Eastman House, Rochester, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.