MARTINE GILBERT

HIS missing arm and leg, Jean Gilbert explained to his young daughter Martine, were taken by a sea serpent while he was crossing the Mediterranean. An old sailor had told him that years ago he had met and loved a mermaid and together they¹d had a child but the lords of the deep would not let his daughter come to live on the dry earth. This old sailor implored Martine¹s father to help him recover the mer-girl. During the deadly rescue Jean was nearly eaten by a fierce water dragon but used his last reserve of strength to swim to the surface again. So impressed was the mer-girl with his bravery that she married him and remained upon the land. The voyage was true but the arm and the leg were lost in an explosion during the battle of Algiers. French forces were eventually driven from the country and Monsieur Gilbert returned to his father¹s butcher shop, the fragmented apprentice to a tyrannical master, ³You should be hanging in the window instead of standing behind the counter,² his father was fond of saying. Jean married a year after his father¹s death to a woman twenty years his junior. As a couple they were conspicuous; his missing left arm and right leg and Martine¹s mother, Simone, with severe phocomelia (flipper arms) due to the poorly tested drug Thalidomide that her mother had taken during her pregnancy to combat agitation and morning sickness. Although the drug was not licensed in France several versions were available in West Germany. Martine¹s grandmother was from the Alsace, a French region just on the border of Germany, where goods and services moved freely across the much-ignored border. AT the age of twelve Martine¹s scoliosis required her to be fitted with a torso scaffolding back brace, a MEAL-oo-ah-KEY, as the doctor pronounced it. But this ³circus family², as some in their village referred to the Gilberts, was oblivious to the whispering. Their butcher shop was the only one for several miles and they were, despite their appearance, respected. Martine wore her brace like a crown, imagining it to be armor like that of Joan of Arc. SHE now keeps the brace over her fireplace in Lyon and will gladly tell anyone the elaborate tale of her father and the sea serpent and her mother born half mermaid.  Drawing on this fantastic childhood Martine conjures macabre and humorous creatures as family portraits, notating and embellishing the events and stories in her life. Martine graduated from the École Nationale des Beaux Arts de Lyon and her work has been greatly influenced by the painters Giorgio de Chirico and Conrad Klapheck, and the author George Bataille. Martine met Datu Galang in 2005 at an artists¹ residency in Indonesia, the Jatiwangi Art Factory.