His scenes are empty, but never bleak.
"The image of the road – much like the image of the river – is going down to infinity," observes Alice Crayton, co-owner of The Station Gallery in Greenville. "It's hopeful."
Through Saturday, the gallery will exhibit a collection of Martz's recent paintings and sketches in "Landscapes of the Mind: A Glimpse of Reality." Six-by-six inch wood panels start at $375 while 50-by-50 inch sweeping linen landscapes cost $5,800. After the show, any unsold work will remain in the gallery.
After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2000, Martz took a two-year hiatus from painting. The central nervous system disorder caused his speech to drag and his hands to shake uncontrollably.
Eventually, he adapted his technique to a more loose, abstract style.
"With clouds, you can never go wrong," he explains, "because there are never two that are the same."
The former wrestling and soccer coach applies globs of paint on the canvas using his right hand, while his left serves as a paintbrush.
Martz works out of a cramped room in his home, currently stocked with abstract birdhouses in preparation for a May 2 opening at Blue Streak Gallery on Delaware Avenue. "Flights of Fancy," which also highlights collages by retired Tower Hill teacher Hugh Atkins, lasts through the end of May.
"He seems to compensate for the movements he can make and work that into the picture," says Jean Alderson, who, at age 97, is Martz's second-oldest student at the Country House.
"I think he's truly remarkable."
Wearing jeans and red suspenders, Martz prefers to be judged on the merits of his work alone.
"What's important to me is that people see my work for the value of it," he says.
A private person, he won't discuss the progression of his disease over the last 14 years. He has regularly organized art events to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. As many as 1 million Americans live with the degenerative disease, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.
"I'm vertical," Martz says, revealing his sense of humor behind a stoic expression. Still, he wouldn't wish Parkinson's "on my worst enemy."
Born in Chestnut Hill, Pa., Martz attended the University of Delaware and Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. He taught art for 13 years in Laurel before joining Tower Hill in 1983.
He taught at the private school for 27 years, enjoying breaks to travel throughout Europe with his wife.
Inspiration struck during an early trip to Amsterdam. When the tram came to a stop, Martz would feverishly draw whatever he saw outside the window. Soon, an imaginary landscape formed from a half-dozen sketches.
Several of his drawings are from when he lived across the street from Longwood Gardens. Martz can't identify the species of trees in his pictures. His primary concern is that they fit into his manipulation of form and space, topped with a muted gray sky.
His work carries straightforward names like "To the Sea," "North Side Superior" or "Moody Afternoon." Only one piece in the exhibition features a barn tucked into the distance.
Martz says he never grows bored of the natural world.
"There's always a new way to explore," he explains. "The water goes different ways. There might be a reflection."
He uses his art to cope with his deteriorating motor skills. When he is in the zone, he can paint for five hours straight without taking a break. He approaches the craft like a meticulous architect, littering his paintings in progress with sticky notes and turning trees on their heads.
"I don't think it interferes," he says of the disease. "It just slows the process."
In the end, his ethereal horizons offer a new perspective on the traditional landscape – allowing both the viewer and the artist a respite from reality.
Contact Margie Fishman at (302) 324-2882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
WHAT: George Martz's "Landscapes of the Mind: A Glimpse of Reality"
WHEN: Exhibition ends Saturday, but any unsold work will be available for purchase after that date. Gallery hours are Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
WHERE: The Station Gallery, 3922 Kennett Pike in Greenville
COMING NEXT: On May 2, "Flights of Fancy," featuring work by George Martz and retired Tower Hill teacher Hugh Atkins, opens at the Blue Streak Gallery.