Longform

A is for Artist (A is also for Arsonist)

Page 7 of 10

Martinez was arrested at 9:35 p.m. and taken to the Madison Street Jail. He was held until 4 a.m. when court records show he waived his rights to an attorney and confessed.

Martinez told detectives what he had done, that he had planned it all. After he was interviewed, Martinez remembers crawling under the steel table in the holding cell and discovering a small bag of marijuana jammed under a table leg. He spread the pot out on the table and began eating it. "I was hungry," Martinez says.

He was booked just after 8 a.m. the next day on three counts of arson, three counts of burglary, possession of marijuana, tampering with evidence, and criminal damage. The church and adjacent buildings suffered more than $220,000 in damage.

His diary from that long night tells the story in blunt detail. Officers arrived and took him to an isolation cell. He felt their eyes on him, he writes. He removed his clothes and flooded the cell with the toilet water. The cell became a bathtub, then a track and field course. He started exercising, thinking he was being trained for the next opportunity and would soon be sent out to finish the job.

"I don't know what's going on, I'm completely confused. I'm scared. I'm angry," he wrote in his journal.

"I stayed up all night screaming. I took off all my clothes and rubbed poop all over myself like a cleansing mask. My sister came and told me to take a shower."

Later he remembers taunting the guards. "I wanted them to come in and kill me. I yelled at the top of my lungs, cursed at them, threw piss on them." The guards beat him, he wrote, then strapped him to a steel cot and called the nurse.

"They put me in restraints. My wrists and ankles. Janet comes in and gives me an injection. I'm asleep now. THE NEXT DAY I WAKE UP AND I'M A NEW PERSON."




He woke up shocked by his acts. His mind cleared of debris, the gravity of his actions overwhelmed him. "I didn't want to burn down Phoenix anymore. A wave of shame and guilt came over me. I was exhausted. I felt like a burden was lifted off me."

He painted all through his time at Madison and Durango jails, and continued once he was transferred to the State Hospital after pleading "Guilty Except Insane" to one count of arson on July 23, 1997.

His diaries from those days in lockup are revealing glimpses into his ever-shifting mind; coherent one day, rambling the next. Poems to loves lost and imagined, scraps of paper tacked in, an arm bracelet, drawings, painted-over texts. They document years of hell and redemption, years of reacting to the chemistry in his brain and trying to understand the complexities of his own mind. They show humor, too, like in his "UA series"; sketches inspired by the endless piss tests his doctors ordered are crudely whimsical, naked figures pissing into vials, urinals, faces.

Next, cigars occupied his time and his mind. He pasted their bands on a sky blue background, he started sketching his "Congo" series, line drawings of figures smoking with poetic captions he would later commit to canvas.

"My mother told me cigar' in Spanish is puro.' Now smoke one and tell me you can't hear it, see it, smell, feel it, and possibly love it. There's magic in puros, witchcraft and poetry. This is only a leaf of a branch. The love I feel for you is eternal."



Their pages show methodical lists of things to do when released, sketches of his home and the improvements he'd like to make to it, plans for video projects, installations, art exhibitions. He wrote in exuberance and in misery, angry laments in all caps, emotional rants in sprawling cursive. Schedules show the structure of his days, a series of groups: relaxation, self-esteem, coping, health maintenance and psychology.

There were days when he questioned his own morality, searching for where he went wrong. "I too am lost with the wretched losing spirits of the criminally insane," he wrote in December of 1997. "Please God help me through these merciless days of insanity, demise, immorality, emptiness."

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Susy Buchanan