Mexican artist showcases talent at local museum

Marco Martinez, 50, created a handmade mosaic bench called "The Heritage Tree" for the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum. Martinez specializes in stained glass windows and mosaics. He will soon host a class on how to make Turkish lamps. Elsa Cavazos/Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN — Visitors to the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum will find a sphere decorated with a tile and glass mosaic of bright blues and greens, with images of flowers and birds representing the many species found around the Valley.

This mosaic piece of art, along with a decorated bench placed nearby, is the work of Matamoros artists Marco Antonio Martinez.

Martinez, 50, will soon offer his talent and creativity to those interested in making Turkish lamps, which are made of mosaic glass.

He will hold a series of sessions at the museum on March 16 and 17.

All of Martinez’s classes have been in Matamoros, and these will be his first in the U.S.

“I feel very happy,” he said. “This is a big accomplishment to have this door open. I am ready to have more things come my way.”

Martinez’s collaboration with the museum goes back to June 2019, when the Mexican Consulate of Brownsville selected it to hold an exhibit of his works.

Martinez brought three mosaic spheres, 10 mosaic butterflies and several murals.

The Rio Grande Valley Museum Association was so impressed with his work that they asked him to create the sphere and the bench currently displayed at the museum.

“I try to make art that everyone will like,” he said. “I like creating landscapes, buildings, nature; things where people will turn around and say ‘Look, how pretty,’ without offending anyone.”

With a career spanning 20 years, Martinez began making stained glass windows in Torreon, a city in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.

After a few years of crafting windows, he was contacted by a company named Bovard Studio in Fairfield, Iowa, which specialized in stained glass window design and restoration.

The company offered him and his team a job, which included training and certification on restoration.

“I stayed for three months with my employees, and they gave us a course on antique glass restoration,” Martinez said. “The course allowed us to be certified by the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with international standards.”

After those three months, Martinez explained they continued to work remotely for the company for three years as they relocated to Matamoros.

During this time, Martinez and his team restored half of the stained glass windows for the Cathedral of Tampa, Florida.

Martinez said he was inspired to start making his own mosaic art when he saw the Virgin of Guadalupe made of tile in a chapel inside the soccer stadium in Torreon.

“I had never seen something like that. I asked who made it and they told me someone from Greece made it because no one in Mexico could,” he said. “I started to do my own research about mosaics. I have never taken a class but the Internet helped me get as much information as I could.”

From then on, Martinez began to practice his skills and create mosaic art.

“I realized I had to practice on my designs and drawings, but it was similar to creating stained glass windows. With a little bit of imagination it allowed me to create more pieces,” he said.

Martinez only creates pieces that are commissioned.

“I always have one order after another. Thank God, I have not had time in 20 years to create something for me,” he said.

Martinez enjoys that his art is also useful for those admiring it, like the bench.

“If people are tired they can sit. With that concept, I want to bring the class of the Turkish lamps, which can also be used,” he said. “I want students to come and see my work; to invite teachers and schools to see the bench and the sphere. That way they can see my art and get inspired.”