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Exploring the Uni.Verse of: RITA MARTINEZ

by Niki Stylianou



I understand you are originally from Costa Rica. Can you share the story of how you came to Europe?

Mine is a love story. I arrived in Italy with a suitcase full of books and a child in my arms. I immediately went on to study for a master’s degree in intercultural conflict resolution with specialization in journalism. Once I finished my master’s degree, I realized that it was not what I actually wanted, but as a historian, I had to start from scratch all over again on the academic path, because I could not get recognized counting on the studies that I had already completed. Like all people who migrate, I too felt lost and had to reinvent myself. It was not easy, nor always pleasant, but with perseverance and discipline I was able to live in Italy preserving the essence of my cultural bond.



During your childhood, did you ever dream of becoming a jewelry artist?

No, I was raised with the awareness of being a woman in Latin America where to be free and economically independent the only way was to study to get an academic degree. As a child I dreamed of becoming a dancer but I had to give up because I was arrhythmic. I also wanted to be an anthropologist but I should have gone to study in Mexico and with three younger siblings to help, I could not leave everything in charge to my mother. In the meantime, I was passionate about reading and from there I decided to study history.



Could you share your connection with jewelry? Is jewelry a passion, a means of self-expression, or a professional vehicle for you?

Jewelry allows me to unconsciously practice my studies as a historian. I love doing research. It makes me feel butterflies in my stomach, so it’s definitely a deep passion. For me jewelry is the crystallization of a personal vision, but not only, it is also a commercial activity (I work from 8 to 12 hours a day) and not a simple hobby.


Tell me more about your collections, specifically MALEDETTA PRIMAVERA and ODORARIUM. As a jewelry artist, it seems you delve beyond techniques, form, and aesthetics. What deeper aspects do you explore, and what inspires your creations?

 About MALEDETTA PRIMAVERA or Damn Spring...


Alchemy is the basis word for my collection Damn Spring, since its essential reason is the transmutability of common metals towards higher planes of these and even life itself (the philosopher's stone). In the process, they can be brought back, transformed, and endowed with other qualities. Perhaps that is why the alchemical operation appears as an imitation and reproduction of the original creative process, we do not know, we are about to discover it by letting it flow.


When it flows, bodies are freed from their limitations, their weights, their corporality to open the way to the deepest: consciousness, disorder and balance again, a game between the triad of spirituality, magic and astrology that together change the perspectives between heaven and earth, balances and what we might think we know.


This magic of transformation has been associated to something dark and mysterious since Christianity and hence its negative connotation, as well as white magic that, despite its healing properties and knowledge, was also prohibited.


Black magic, regardless of the use that you want to make of it, is complementary to white magic since it returns to the cosmic dualism that guarantees the balance of the entire universe. For this reason, although black evokes darkness, in direct antithesis to white, both elements are indispensable to each other to coexist.


With my Damn Spring I felt like a little alchemist, locked in her magical world, torn between the perception of nature awakening from winter slumber and the darkness, however present, of the world historical conjuncture (Covid). Hence the outburst, rebellion and the elaboration of a series of symbols (a nest, a bird, a flower), generally full of light and life, which are instead painted black. But they assume a decidedly liberating 'coloration' of the inner malaise, of the demons that grip you and that, once expressed, allow again harmony and strength to face the future.




It was a theme that had been spinning in my head since 2019 but had been put aside because I hadn’t done enough research yet. Then with a first research of materials, I created the first pieces but only after an accident to my wrists, which forced to stop the production, I had more time to think and observe and reach the crystallization of some perfumes.

Since I was a child I remember my almost maniacal relationship with everything I encountered through the mediation of smell. I used to smell everything in a natural automatism. Since 2019 I have been working on this obsession and, through a thorough research on some archetypes of olfactory language, I have come to the first results that I wanted to gather under the name of Odorarium.

All the cultures of ancient history, Egyptians, Greeks, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and of Mesoamerica, home of my mixed raced roots and my cosmovision, have given smells a significant ontological and sociological role. Whether that of contact and veneration with higher entities or the care of one’s own body and the dead, or with sacred function, there was always a dialectic between the real and the metaphorical, between substance and essence in order to reconcile opposites in a dimension that transcends the time limit.

In fact, talking about smells is talking about evocation, transformation of the most normal things into memories, magical, fantastic moments. Every time we smell something, we look in our memory for a symbol that transcends the body.

Odorarium wants to be a first approach as a 'hunter' to the universe of smells. It speaks of historical memory but, above all, personal. It speaks of hereditary concatenations, emotional feelings of crying, laughter, happiness, anguish, nostalgia.

Smells, scents, aromas that are in my cultural background, that have accompanied my life paths, created my image and contributed to the perception of myself and the others.

I used copper as a privileged material for its color because smells were historically related to fire (per-fumum - through the steam/smoke produced by fire), the same heat that allows flowers to bloom cyclically enriching the world of their perfumes

If you were to choose three contemporary jewelry artists to collaborate with, who would they be?

If I had to pick only three artists to collaborate with, among the many I could choose, I would pick:

Jorge Manilla for his knowledge and experimentation, Bettina Speckner for her ‘poetry’ in all her works and Maria Ignacia Walker for the magic she transmits.


How was your experience with the JELO6 Project? How do you believe Contemporary Jewelry should be exhibited in a similar event?

Would you agree with jewelry being showcased in an unconventional setting?

On a personal level it was a magical experience: I found so much humanity, I felt at home, welcome. In terms of professionalism it was amazing to see so many different jewels and interact with a lot of artists. A moment of professional and personal growth. Finally, the performances were simply wonderful.

Does kinaesthesia play a role for you in your everyday life? Could we experience jewelry through kinaesthesia? If yes, Can you share an example of a piece in your collection that is specifically crafted to evoke a kinaesthetic response in the person wearing it?

More than kinesthesia, I would talk about portability and the interrelation between the user of the jewel and the jewel itself. I often find myself making pieces at the limit between the 'classic' portable jewel and an 'object', while always trying to be careful of weight, but not necessarily to movement, because sometimes according to the theme it represents it could be something ‘static'.

Can you share your plans for the near future of your artistic journey?

I am workaholic and therefore I always have jobs or projects going on. I have to review some things from previous collections and take stock of the situation. I would very much like to participate to Contemporanea 2024 in Barcelona, the 5th Vonmo Exhibition 2026 and also be part of the Homo Faber organization, obviously always remaining open to new approaches, new ideas and new experiments.


Looking into the far future, what is your wildest dream as a jewelry artist?

This is the hardest question because I have so many crazy dreams, like exhibiting at the MAD Museum Jewelry and at the Benaki Museum, studying an ancestral technique, taking a course with Peter Bauhuis.

What advice would you give to someone new entering the field of Contemporary Art Jewelry?

I do not have a magic formula, but I would suggest perseverance, sincerity and discipline as the main factors to work in the field of contemporary art jewelry.

Thank you!


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