When Resa Blatman was a young girl, adults would often ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up and her answer was always, “a artist.” And while her life has taken many twists and turns, including a career as a successful graphic designer and college professor, her response is still the same. Though today Blatman knows it’s called being an artist.
“I always wanted to be an artist,” Blatman said. She grew up the daughter of an upholsterer and spent a lot of time in her family’s material room, where she got her introduction to the baroque patterns that still inform her artwork. “A few years ago I made the connection. It’s been with me all my life.”
Blatman attended the Ringling College of Art & Design in her home state of Florida before striking out for New York City. But she soon discovered, as many young artists do, how difficult it is to make it in the art world there. So Blatman went to Italy to attend school and stayed on for a few years, making masks for carnival.
After leaving Italy, she moved to Boston, where she met the man who would become her husband, and they decided to put down roots. But Blatman continued to struggle and almost gave up making art at one point.
“Painting was a bad lover. It wasn’t giving me what I wanted,” Blatman said.
So she decided to get a degree in graphic design from MassArt, which she calls the “best thing I ever did.”
“When you’re an artist, you’re often invisible. But I didn’t feel like that when I worked as a designer,” Blatman said.
Blatman wanted the ability to teach college full time, so she pursued a master’s in painting at Boston University. But instead of preparing her for a life inside the classroom, the program reawakened her passion for creating art.
“I remembered how much I loved it,” Blatman said. “By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to paint full time.”
Throughout Blatman’s career, her work has been informed by significant life events and issues she is passionate about. Several years ago, she explored her experience with infertility and the treatments that accompanied it through her work.
“In-vitro is a very life-changing event,” Blatman said. She painted fruit and birds and white shapes that were flat and empty as a “metaphor for what I was feeling.”
Now most of her work is focused on nature and calling attention to the environmental issues we’re facing, like fracking and mountain-top removal.
“I try not to be obvious,” Blatman said. “I try to make them dark and have a message but also an aspect of beauty. I never wanted to be a political artist. I’m very passionate about nature and the environment. Without a healthy environment, there’s no future for anybody.”
And Blatman has found both a place to produce her beautiful artwork and make a home in Somerville. She moved here in 1988 and has seen the city undergo many changes in the intervening years.
“I’m really happy that we ended up here. Somerville has transformed enormously in the last 15 years,” Blatman said. “It’s an amazing place. We have a terrific mayor who really cares about the arts. There’s always something going on. There’s a great energy here.”
P.S. Blatman will be participating in Somerville Open Studios this May 4 and 5, so stop by 6 Vernon St. to see her work!