The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 19, No. 3

Martin Mull

by Steve Martin

Martin Mull should not exist, but clearly he does. It would seem that no one who has been nominated for two Grammys, hosted The Tonight Show, received a Writers Guild Award for best teleplay, been the center square on Hollywood Squares, and kicked a field goal for the Cleveland Browns could possibly be an extraordinary painter and illuminator of psychological darkness. It is just not done, and the person who did it would certainly vanish in a puff of smoke.
     Martin would fit nicely in the lineage of American narrative painting, except that the lineage of American narrative painting is square and dull, especially in the twentieth century (the work of George Bellows and a few others excepted). However, the lineage of American sinister, brooding, mystifying narrative painting is not square or dull and includes Edward Hopper, Eric Fischl, Mark Tansey, and John Currin. Martin Mull slides easily into this group.
     Martin's technical mastery has always coexisted perfectly with the intent of his work. After his early, precisely rendered paintings, as his work became more complex, he intentionally blunted his draftsmanship, probably indicating that his messages were becoming less tangible and more mysterious to him. During the last ten years, his renderings have become once again more precise, suggesting that Martin's grasp on his symbols is more exact.
     His eye focused dead center on the American psyche, and his hand grounded in the tradition of American realism, Martin has achieved something rare for picture-makers, creating—in many instances—the unforgettable image.

To view Martin Mull's design of the Fall 2015 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.