I said no. by Martha Rich
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 24"x20" ($600)
Who else had a Monday? We got the cure. When we’re ready for some down-to-earth excellence in its most delectably deadpan form, we turn to longtime 20x200 artist Martha Rich and our eclectic collection of her brightly-colored, straight-talking critters. Painted against solid backgrounds, their poppy speech bubbles stand out, saying—in so few words—exactly the right thing. Bluntness just feels better. Exhibit A: our new edition, I said no.
While Rich has positioned this puttytat as though suspended in midair, its telltale side-loaf silhouette suggests otherwise. We’re inclined to say this is the body language of a cat in horizontal repose, belly fluff exposed just enough that an ill-advised passerby might mistake the moment as an opportunity for a unauthorized scritch—and they will be properly punished. Soak up that unamused expression. Bask in the two itty-bitty bared teeth. This cat may look cute, but it will bite the sh*t out of you if you bother it.
Rich’s clear, all-caps lettering (her handwriting features heavily in a lot of her art) spells it out. “I said no.” Her characteristic wry wit is front and center in I said no., but make no mistake: this is a soft skills delivery of laying down the law. Rich is an activist and advocate whose artwork is a master class in outspoken authenticity. A self-described “late bloomer,” the Philly born and based artist has learned how to make her voice heard—as a person and as an artist. She uses humor, but there’s a whole lot of good hard truth to it.
Take today’s edition. This cat is fabulously forthright and totally effortless about the endeavor. The red and pink clashes unabashedly and works brilliantly to build a bright, positive, playful mood. Of course, “I said no” is a phrase that calls to mind some serious subject matter. No means no, it seems, is still not universally accepted as the immutable truth it ought to be. Many of the messages Rich writes out in her artworks are about setting your boundaries and standing your ground, but there’s also a lot of joy to be found. In Rich’s world, self-assertion and joy are not mutually exclusive.
I said no. makes the case for a more complex understanding of personal power, one that’s expressed in inarguably funny and delightful ways, but still grounded in strength. Pieces like I said no., Tough Titties, and Stop Talking all belong to this oeuvre, and have built-in versatility by virtue of the way they straddle seriousness and sense of humor. I said no., for instance, is equally befitting a feminist nest and nifty nursery room wall. (We’re really pulling for this print as a gift for a parent, because what child rearer isn’t painfully familiar with the featured phrase?) Rich's work is super specific, but its spirit is suited for all sorts of collectors. We can think of a million reasons you’ll want to say “yes” to I said no.
With art for everyone,