M. Joyce Martin,
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in a blizzard in 1926, Joyce was
an adventurer with the heart of an artist. From the time she first had access
to drawing materials, she began to draw everything she saw. As a child she told
everyone she would be a "famous artist" when she grew up. Her father suggested
a different course, telling her that artists never make enough money to
survive. She wanted to go to the Rhode Island School of Art after high school,
yet her father insisted she take on a more practical career:
Joyce made a valiant attempt at bookkeeping as a career,
which lasted a few minutes beyond graduating from college. With the explosive
beginning of World War II, she joined the war effort and went to work in a
munitions factory, using one evening a week as a hostess in the Officers Club.
Two seconds later she and a young lieutenant, Peter Martin, fell madly in love.
When he was posted to the military base in Mississippi, Joyce made haste to
join him, failing to inform her parents.
The elopement caused much
concern, but Joyce returned to her family home a married woman when Peter was
posted to Guam.
After the War, the couple settled in Florida and began
raising a family. Joyce turned to her art talents to supplement the family
income and was soon creating murals and paintings for various businesses and
churches. As an artist with a love for her faith, she specialized in liturgical
art, designing the furnishings and public art for numerous churches and
schools. Her work included carved statues, Venetian glass mosaics, wood mosaics
and triptychs, coats of arms for various bishops and archbishops, oil paintings
In Denver, Colorado in 1970 Joyce was commissioned to
create eight-foot-diameter wood mosaics for the renovation of the historical
St. Elizabeth's Church. These mosaics, designed as auras for an installation of
large statues, depicted chrysanthemums. The chrysanthemum in Chinese herbology
was believed to have the power of life. If you would be happy for a
lifetime, grow Chrysanthemums. Chinese proverb. Joyce loved to
incorporate world symbolism into her art, and the chrysanthemums infused new
life into her work.
Soon other commissions followed, including major
installations for Holy Family Catholic Church,
Denver; Sts. Peter and Paul, Wheat Ridge; Mother Cabrini (Columbine Catholic
Community), Aurora, and more.
In 1973 Joyce developed the idea of a
joyful Christ image, feeling the dark side of the Gospel story had overtaken
the shining joyful message of Jesus. She was given a grant by an anonymous
donor who believed the time had come to imagine Jesus warm and friendly,
welcoming children with a smile, instead of always representing him dying,
The oil painting took her five years to complete,
her models all various family members, making a composite picture where the
artist saw Christ even in my balding husband and my rebellious teenage
sons. Her husband's face, a daughter's smile, a son's beard, another
son's eyes, another daughter's hair, and the result was a strong and warm man
with the last light of day making his face glow. This painting became known as
Christ, the Essence of Life, Light, Love, and Laughter.
painting was featured in
Samra's book, The
Joyful Christ: The Healing Power of Humor, Harpercollins 1986; (First
published as "Jesus Put on a Happy Face" in 1985 by Rosejoy Publications).
Posters and art prints of the painting spread the image of a joyful Christ
around the world. After Joyce's death in 2011, the Sisters at Mount St.
Francis, Colorado Springs, Colorado became the custodians of the posters and
Joyce and her husband became the founders of a spiritual retreat
center in their retirement, where they remained until their deaths. He died in
2008. Joyce died in January 2011. She will live on in her