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Obituaries

Noted Artist Esperanza Martinez, 64

January 17, 1998|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Esperanza Martinez, Latina artist who overcame sex discrimination to place her vibrant, sweeping, Diego Rivera-inspired paintings in museums and collections around the world, has died. She was 64.

Martinez, who moved from Mexico to Southern California in 1963, died Wednesday in Hacienda Heights of breast cancer.

When she was 3, her grandfather gave her a pencil and paper and told her to draw. By 7, she had attracted the attention of an art teacher who started training her, and at 12 she sold her first painting.

But female artists in Mexico in the 1930s and 1940s were not highly regarded, she often recalled. Even Martinez's family declined to promote her studies.

Working two jobs and selling paintings, Martinez paid for classes at Mexico City's Academia de San Carlos, where Rivera was part of a teachers' collective. He took her on as one of his few private pupils.

The deep reds, oranges and purples of her work, her depiction of full-figured women and her sweeping landscapes echo the murals of her famous teacher.

Her works--done in oils, charcoal, pencil or ceramic paint--eventually sold for $10,000 or more. They have been displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moscow's Pushkin Museum and, in Los Angeles, at the Casa del Adobe Museum.

Martinez is survived by her husband, Domingo, and son, Ollin.

Services are scheduled at 7 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon Cathedral in Los Angeles.

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