MARTHA K. IWASKI

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MARTHA K. IWASKI Artist, healer, trickster, friend- will be celebrated Saturday November 16 at the Folk Art Museum, 6 pm to 8 pm. Martha left peacefully September 29, 2013, watched over by her Nisha, the world's most coddled standard brown poodle and perhaps the one boy she deigned to invite into her bed. Martha was born in Clovis, NM, August 21, 1934. Her lifelong enchantment with Northern New Mexico began in childhood on San Juan and San Ildefonso pueblos. Martha started her artist's journey at the age of four when her father, an Austrian-born archeologist, took her to study painting with Po Povida, the son of famed potter Maria Martinez. She learned to paint in the vivid colors that became a hallmark of her artwork. Her senior year in high school, Martha was first-chair trumpet in New Mexico's all-state band. She created a family legend when wind blew away her music just as she started a big solo. She didn't miss a note. It was perhaps the first in a lifetime of ignoring inconvenient interruptions. Martha was a polymath, earning a bachelor's degree in zoology from UNM, a law degree from the University of Denver, and a PhD in psychology from Antioch University. After retiring as a director at the Institute for American Indian Art, she studied Jungian psychology in Switzerland, shamanism in the Amazon, and Tibetan Buddhism everywhere. Inspired to pursue her considerable healing gifts, Martha became a doctor of oriental medicine. She was among the first U.S. students trained by Sensei Nakazono, a renowned Japanese acupuncturist and Aikido master. In her thirty years of practice, countless clients benefited from her care and compassion. An accomplished contemporary artist, Martha painted to provoke and inspire. She wrote that she was "interested in portraying the controversial; the mystery, the joy, the wonder, and the spiritual process of life and how we interact with ourselves, each other, the earth, and the greater universe." She delighted in ambiguity, distortion and dislocation of form. As she put it, "You try and upset the human experience." Her passionate art reflected her remarkable life. Martha was a world traveler and world citizen. In 1962, she was in the inaugural class of the U.S. Peace Corps, where she met her lifelong friend Margaret. Ever pragmatic about putting others' talents to her best use, Martha chose assignment to Peru with Margaret because, as Margaret puts it, "I could speak Spanish and she knew there would always be an interpreter handy." Their four-woman team landed in a coastal fishing village and discovered that everything and everyone smelled of fish. So Martha got her group adopted by U.S. fishing crews, who cheered their idealism and kept them supplied with American toilet paper, Kleenex, Joy dishwashing detergent, cases of Budweiser Beer, many bottles of Scotch, and cases of Dr. Pepper and 7Up. A natural athlete, Martha was a fine tennis player, a wicked skier, an annoyingly adept golfer. She picked up clubs late in life and hit golf balls 150 yards. She was militant about forgetting which ball was hers, a lapse that let her claim the one closest to the green. In August, she was on the fairway, claiming friends' balls, three days before her cancer diagnosis. She was a fierce outdoorswoman, inveterate traveler, long-distance hiker, and the trickster companion that campfire stories are made of-including the scary ones. While working near Philmont as a camp counselor, she lived on horseback, often disappearing into the wilderness for days with her friend Susan. Mary Lou, her friend of 59 years, is still jumpy from their three-week Grand Canyon river trip, a wooden-dory odyssey Mary Lou remembers chiefly for the moment Martha leaned over and softly inquired, "What would you do if you had a scorpion on your life jacket crawling up to your face?" With strangers as well as friends, Martha was generous with practical jokes. If a tourist asked for directions, she often sent them the wrong way with a gleam in her eye and a giggle at their backs, in hopes that a visitor to the City Different might wander off to an authentic Santa Fe experience-random, spontaneous, slightly eccentric. In sum, like Martha. Martha was a foodie and a serious vegetarian cook. Friends looked forward to brisk fall days when she prowled the Santa Fe Farmers Market, whipped up feasts in someone else's kitchen, and demonstrated her uncanny ability to time an exit-just before it was time to clean up. Her cooking exploits occurred in alternate spatial dimensions, evidenced by the fact that every recipe she swore came together in 20 minutes inevitably took hours and every pot in a house. Martha ate in Andiamo's like it was her kitchen, developing a hopeless addiction to profiteroles. Whenever her family came to Santa Fe, only the Shed would do. She loved Call the Midwife, The Good Wife; The Daily Show; Broadway musicals; Hillary Clinton; political debates when progressives won; dressing up for Halloween and denying being in costume; reveling in all rituals of Christmas peculiar to Santa Fe. She was an outspoken feminist and fierce supporter of equality for all. A master gardener, she coaxed astonishing beauty from flowers, just as she created it in her art and her life. Martha was preceded in death by her mother Gladys Leo Mathews, life-long teacher of the pueblos; her father Edward Henry Iwaski, and her beloved sister and best friend Elizabeth Ann Gerdin. She is survived by friend and brother-in-law Rudolph Gerdin, niece Lynda Webb, nephew Andrew Gerdin, and three grand-nephews, two grand-nieces. All who knew and love Martha are invited to help us celebrate and remember her.
Published in Santa Fe New Mexican on Jan. 1, 1900
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