David Martin

David Martin

Gallery owner and art historian David Martin has waged a decades-long crusade to give neglected artists, overshadowed by the Northwest School, their day in the sun. Many of those artists are women and people of color.

In 1986, Martin and his partner, Dominic Zambito, opened Martin-Zambito Fine Art in the Pike-Pine neighborhood well before Pike-Pine was hip. In fact, the grateful landlord waved their first six months’ rent just for moving in. 

The gallery has since moved from the now high-rent Pike-Pine quarter and taken up residence in the basement of Dearborn House, the 1907 manse on First Hill.

As a gay man from a conservative Italian neighborhood in upstate New York, Martin knows what it feels like to be marginalized.

That knowledge and his love of art have driven Martin to champion artists fallen into the historical dustbin. This last year has been incredibly productive.

Martin curated the Elizabeth Colborne exhibit at the Whatcom County Museum in Bellingham and authored the book “Evergreen Muse: The Art of Elizabeth Colborne.” Colborne was an extraordinary printmaker who captured images of the Northwest in the 1920s and ‘30s. 

After two decades of research, Martin helped trigger the Henry Art Gallery’s beautiful “Shadows of a Fleeting World” exhibit this past winter-spring, a retrospective on the mostly Japanese-American Seattle Camera Club, and contributed a perspicuous essay to the companion book.

He was one of three curators for the Virna Haffer exhibit, which closed in November at the Tacoma Art Museum, and contributed an essay to “Turbulent Lens: The Photographic Art of Virna Haffer” (reviewed in this issue).

As if this weren’t enough, Martin curated “The Art of Richard Bennett: Paintings, Prints and Illustrations” for the Museum of History & Industry, which ended in March. Bennett, a printmaker and illustrator born in Ireland and raised in this state, had a national reputation in his day.

Farther back: In 2005, Martin curated the landmark “An Enduring Legacy: Women Painters of Washington, 1930-2005” at the Whatcom County Museum and wrote the book, of course. The list goes on.

There’s much to thank David Martin for.