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Talk of the Town - Living large November 30 2005

Martha Whittington turns big visions into big realities

For anyone who knows her, it's really no surprise that Martha Whittington bought her Boulevard Heights house after it had been unoccupied for seven years and condemned. After all, as an installation artist (she creates site-specific art), her mind has been trained to think big, and from the get-go, she had a vision of what the house could be.

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Whittington obtained an undergraduate degree in sculpture from Kansas City Art Institute, and a master's from Temple University's Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She moved to Atlanta in 1999 and built her home from almost nothing, adding two pre-fabricated structures to serve as studios. There is never a dull moment at home, Whittington says, with the house almost consistently under some kind of renovation, and full of numerous dogs and cats, large and heavy machinery, and her roommate, Christine.

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What did this house look like before you moved in?

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There was no kitchen, the ceiling was falling in, and the floors were a complete mess. There was no toilet, no plumbing, and no electricity. Structurally it was sound, so I renovated the whole place.

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Why did you choose this neighborhood and house?

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I got a great deal on this house, and it is on two lots, so I knew there would be room to build and still have space. Also, I like this area, because you almost feel like you are in the country with all the trees, woods and creeks around, but it is only 10 minutes from downtown.

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How did you decide to become an artist?

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My father was an electrical engineer, and my mother was a self-taught painter. Both of them always encouraged my siblings and I to be creative — we were always making our own forts and games, and anything else we could come up with.

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What kind of art do you like to create?

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I like to create what I want and what inspires me. Mostly things that relate to or revolve around the action of the body, as well as the environment and the basic elements of nature. Most of what I make is modular, meaning that I create it piece by piece and have a vision of what it is going to look like.

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Where did all the heavy machinery come from?

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When I started doing renovation work, I started acquiring things like a table saw, hand saws, drill presses, a chip saw, and more. And all of it I use on both renovating and my work.

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Why did you choose to have your studio at home?

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Oh, I can't imagine it any other way. I don't know how people have a studio away from home. I think it would be so difficult to come home from work, eat, then go off to another location. My studio has always been at home, and I feel really fortunate to have it that way.

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