Remembering Martha Rodriguez
By Peggy Gyulai

Beloved artist, friend, and activist in the San Francisco arts community, Martha A. Rodriguez died July 5 after a years-long battle with leukemia. Her vibrant paintings often reflected her struggle with cancer and her desire to continue fighting it.

Rodriguez painted and sculpted at 1890 Bryant Street Studios, in her wonderful workspace “Estudio Martita.” Her art examined life, death, and womanhood, often depicting robust larger women as an expression of powerful femininity.

Originally from San Jose, Rodriguez was a San Francisco resident for many years. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and later UC Berkeley, where she earned a degree in Social Welfare. She was a vibrant member of the 1890 Bryant Studio community and was always known for her warmth and kindness, as well as her bright red lipstick and “Dahling!” greeting.

During her illness, Rodriguez kept in touch with friends and family and her fellow artists with frequent updates such as this one written last May: “Your wishes of love, light, health, prayers are so welcomed. I have been surrounded by your love,” she wrote. “You have all given me strength, a meaning for my life and a powerful desire to stay with the living–for as long as I can.” We will all miss Martha and will carry her life spirit forward.

Remembering Jacques Jacob Terzian,
Founder Of Artist Community “The Point”
Excerpts taken from his obituary, written by John Markoff, Jacques’ son-in-law.
Photo by Judy Reed.

Jacques Jacob Terzian, a sculptor and the founder of The Point, the nation’s largest artist’s colony, died at his home in Walnut Creek on August 6th. He was 94.

An interior designer and a sculptor, Terzian established roots in San Francisco, in the 1970s while the city was in the midst of being transformed into a white-collar financial center. The city’s artistic community was being forced from their studios by development projects, and this need for additional artist studios presented Terzian with a business opportunity.

He began looking for a new home for displaced artists. One day, he saw a large sign advertising warehouse space for rent at the Hunters Point Shipyard, a military base where he had once worked repairing ships as a 20-year-old during the Second World War. Jacques convinced the landlord, Albert O. Engel, to sublease a building, initially for storage.

In 1983, with the help of his children, he began retrofitting buildings; the next year, he created affordable workspaces and more significantly, a unique artists’ community named “The Point.” The buildings had largely been gutted of plumbing and wiring, and Jacques, already in his sixties, spent the better part of a year working on his back, reinstalling pipes underneath the first building he restored. Not a professional plumber, he often told the story of how he had neglected to install a pressure relief valve in the system, and as a result, the building shook violently each time a toilet was flushed.

The name “The Point” originally came to Jacques while he was developing the first building at Hunters Point and people kept asking him; “What is the point?”

From its inception, The Point was a fragile institution that Jacques worked tirelessly to protect. At various times, both the Navy and the City of San Francisco attempted to push the artists out of the Shipyard. In 1984, a political battle erupted over a plan to homeport the battleship U.S.S. Missouri. Jacques rallied the artists, printing buttons that read SOB—for “Save Our Businesses.”

Over more the past three decades, The Point has offered a series of residencies for young artists in the surrounding community. In addition to his role as property manager, Jacques built a deep bond with the artists working at The Point. He was a regular visitor to their studios, dispensing advice and artistic criticism.

“Jacques Terzian was truly one of a kind,” said Scott Madison, a long time member of The Point community. “He left the world a better place for having been in it. Perhaps a good wish for a man who could rarely sit still for more than a few minutes – may he be restless in peace.”

ArtSpan also honors the life and work of two other artists we lost this past year, Lauren Alexander and Sunny B Fischer. Their contributions to the arts in San Francisco live on in the vitality of our community.