M. Joyce Martin, 1926-2011

Joyce MartinBorn 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: Bookkeeping.

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 and watermedia.

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, bleeding, suffering.

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.”

The painting was featured in Cal 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 prints.

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 art.


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