"Martyl: The very sound of her name evokes the strength of her work. That she eschews a surname reflects her directness as a person and as an artist.”
Suzanne Folds McCullagh
Anne Vogt Fuller and Marion Titus Searle Curator of Earlier Prints and Drawings
Art Institute of Chicago
From Left to Right: Waterfall, Japan, 1996-97 by Martyl, 14"x12" Acrylic on Mylar from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection; Have a Nice Day, 2002 by Martyl, Ellen Sandor and (art)n; Wyoming 13, (Illustration #15 in Catalog), 2009 by Martyl, 10"x8" Acrylic on Gesso, from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection
Congressman Bill Foster Honors Martyl Langsdorf
Martyl is both a celebrated landscape artist and the renowned designer of the iconic Doomsday Clock (1947), commissioned by the Atomic Bulletin of Scientists at the University of Chicago. Being an artist member of a scientific culture, Martyl is without predecessors for bridging a gap between the two creative spheres. In the 1960s, she created early experimental “synaptic” artworks she produced with mylar that merged artistic processes with scientific themes. Her vital contributions underscored by her passion for the natural landscape brought about a richness in social consciousness that continues to ignite sparks between artists and scientists who strive to share a common language today. Martyl was married to nuclear physicist, Alexander Langsdorf Jr. and had two daughters, Suzanne and Alexandra, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A native of Missouri and longtime resident of Illinois, Martyl preserved the landmarked home and studio of modernist architect Paul Schweikher in Schaumburg, Illinois, where she continued to reside and work until her death.
"What Martyl's works evoke in empathy with nature is the struggle for survival and regeneration, providing metaphors that resonate completely within us as we are prompted to contemplate our own states of existence along the way."
Robert T. Buck
Sangre de Christo Mountains I, 1975 by Martyl, 18 1/2"x25" Ink on Paper, from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection
Throughout Martyl’s career, she continued to make connections between artists and scientists to create openings for interdisciplinary cultures to speak a common language through visual art. In the mid-1980s Martyl met Ellen Sandor, founding artist and director of (art)n along with Larry Smarr and Donna Cox, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Martyl inaugurated (art)n’s first major exhibition of PHSColograms that included computer generated imagery at Fermilab Gallery in Batavia, Illinois in 1987.
In a recent interview, Martyl recalled “Ellen Sandor was right on the cusp of science iconography and art, which is something I was always interested in and tried to bring about in the beginning . . . Ellen was one of the first to use scientific processes to create a combination of art and science. The natural place for the exhibition was the Fermilab whose director was half scientist and half artist. That’s why it is one of the most beautiful laboratories in the country. Robert Rathbun Wilson designed and built the Fermilab. He was a sculptor himself and his sculptures are all over the lab. So (art)n was a natural for the exhibition for which they have distinguished exhibitions, lectures and musical events and still do.”
To commemorate the Doomsday Clock and it’s enduring resonance with the uncertainty of our changing climate, Martyl, Ellen Sandor and (art)n created Have a Nice Day – a PHSCologram tribute featuring the iconic hands of the clock approaching midnight, juxtaposed with one of her landscape paintings, Tent Rocks, that was featured in multiple gallery exhibitions in Chicago. Martyl's career spanned nearly eight decades in which she explored painting, drawing, murals, printmaking, and stained glass, featured in more than 100 exhibitions that included the Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, and the Illinois State Museum, among others.
Buck, Robert T. (1986). Site Drawings by Martyl: The Precinct of Mut at Luxor. The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Donato, Deborah Duez (1990). Ruth Duckworth and Martyl: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. State of Illinois Gallery, Chicago, Illinois. pp. 6,7,13,16.
Martyl (2007). Martyl: Inspired by Location. Foreward by Robert T. Buck. Introduction by Suzanne Folds McCullagh. Printworks Gallery, Chicago, Illinois.