Marty Katon, Photographed and Interviewed by Debbie Zeitman
TribeLA Magazine Acrostic Interview.3 with Debbie Zeitman
Energy: What fires you up?
Fires me up? Good and bad? Politics, laughter, a great mind, entitlement, littering, energetic music, a beautifully timed photograph, lingering dinner parties with a flow of conversation. I think I will consider adding to this list daily as an act of self-reflection.
Los Angeles: Where is your favorite place in Los Angeles? Where would you take visitors? If you could defend the city in one sentence to someone who doubts it, what would you say?
I love that I see the ocean daily, and that looking out at that horizon both soothes and anchors me. When friends come to LA, I strive to show them the vast diversity of the city, from neighborhood to neighborhood, but I stay away from glitzy because that doesn’t interest me. We travel to public art and areas with personality, from Venice to downtown to Echo Park…I could go on and on. Since LA seems to be rebuilt constantly, it’s a great place to take risk, because if you fear failure the evidence will likely be erased before you blink.
Advice: What is the best advice you’ve received? What is the best advice you can give?
Be more vulnerable. That I must not quiet my own voice because it belongs uniquely to me, and it is my obligation to honor it. That along with ‘Bias towards action’ (thank you Bill Burnett and Dave Evans) because sitting on an idea will not make it happen, and it can grow and evolve once it’s in motion. Imagine and describe your ideal day – where you see yourself, what time it starts, what you are doing, do you work with others or alone, etc. – and then figure out what job looks like that (courtesy of Biz Stone).
Best advice I can give? Listen to the advice I received. And stop uttering the phrase “I’m so busy” as if it’s a badge of honor. If your life is driving you and you’re not driving your life, make some changes. If you don’t have time to gather with people who matter to you, something is terribly out of balance. I know this might sound as if it’s spoken from a place of privilege, but I often notice that those with the least are best about creating time to be with others.
I look for truth in photos. And I seek to provoke thought with words. And when I marry the two, I hope to stir up a personal connection for the viewer.
“I often say that I’m not a wildlife painter. I’m a portrait painter. I want to show the mental presence of animals.”
Growing up on the Huron River in Michigan introduced Marty to art and animals. “I was on the river and was a hunter and trapper,” he says, explaining that he trapped animals for food. “I decided I liked animals better than people.” He threw his traps in the river and started rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals. The river also brought Marty to art. “I found a pile of Ukiyo-e oriental art books and just started copying. I was fascinated. That’s what got me going on the painting.” To pursue his passion, Marty made brushes from sticks and used house paint.
Marty wasn’t allowed to take art in high school. “Back then in the 60s they said I was too hyper. That I couldn’t sit still. It hurt my feelings.” That experience led Marty to teaching. “I teach learning difference kids because art gives them self esteem.” He doesn’t use the term ‘learning disabled’ because of the impact the label can have on kids. He currently teaches elementary and teen classes twice a week at Virginia Ave. Park in Santa Monica via a nonprofit run by the city.
Marty continues to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wild animals. While caring for the animals, he often paints their portraits and donates the paintings to raise funds for various rescue organizations. While Marty has explored assorted painting styles, his wildlife portraits are his passion.
Marty has been in his current studio on Sunset Ave. in Venice since 2004, though he has been in Venice on and off since the 1970s. He feels confident that his studio will remain because the building’s owners “still want artists in here.” While Marty says that the art market is really down, which he attributes to assorted things from the economy to people experiencing the world from behind their computers, he sells via Qart.com. “People are staying home and buy more online.” He adds, “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen with artists. I have been doing this for 50 years. People still like animals.”
Debbie Zeitman has photographed over 50 Venice Artists and still counting. Fifteen artist portraits and stories are hanging at Wabi Venice (1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice). Her photographic life began as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press covering primarily sports. Now her eyes drift to life’s everyday rich details, whether tiny or grand. She also spends an extraordinary amount of time trying to capture the meaningful expressions of shelter dogs and cats in an attempt to get them to safety and into permanent homes. In addition, Debbie advocates for all animals and lives a vegan lifestyle.