The Hillside Home of An Artist

07 Feb 2022

Walls of paintings, memorabilia, and books stimulate this light-filled Weymouth house

By Ray Owen  »  Photos by Brandon Williams

Meridith Martens is an award-winning artist with a passion for creative expression. Her aesthetic sense is reflected in her hillside home, set on a winding lane in the Weymouth section of Southern Pines. The front door opens to a hallway, the walls filled with drawings and paintings – a kaleidoscope of impressions – captured moments in time.

Lieutenant General Yarborough, credited as the “Father of the Modern Green Berets,” once owned the mid-century stucco-finished house. Martens and her husband, Howard Schubert, purchased the property in 2006 and expanded it to accommodate modern living – the remodel shaped by Martens’ artistic interests.

Known for her ability to render the essence of a subject, Martens is equally comfortable with realism and abstraction and the full range in between. Her original works are included in collections around the world, with reproductions available through Fine Art America, Ralph Lauren Home Collection and Trowbridge Gallery in London.

Her father served in the Navy, and she was raised in Annapolis, Maryland, with a menagerie of pets. Marten’s artist career was sparked by an affinity for animals with her first commissions in high school. “I was very serious about horses,” she recounts. “At age 14-15, I started painting portraits, selling them for $5 apiece to pay for shipping my horse to the shows.”

She came from a creative family with artists in their lineage including Theodor Martens, a listed painter who was awarded a silver medal during an exhibit at the London Crystal Palace in 1874. Growing up, her father, mother and sister were talented, and her brother had a studio for a while. “Dad had a lot of crazy artist friends,” she recalls. “They could be described as Bohemian.”

“As a child, I was basically feral and left home at age 17. I don’t think I even told my mother that I was hitchhiking cross-country, often with a friend or two. I was bouncing all over the place, trying everything. Sometimes I hitchhiked alone, even down into Mexico. I’d leave with five bucks in my pocket – things didn’t cost much, people were kind, so I never went hungry.”

Along the way, Martens advanced her skills by attending the Corcoran School of Art and the San Francisco Art Institute. “I wasn’t a prodigy,” she admits. “I had to work hard, but it was what I wanted to do. I was introduced to a professional equestrian sportswriter who became my agent. That’s where I really got my professional start.”

“I was painting racehorses and met Richard Stone Reeves, perhaps the greatest modern-day horse painter. He was so helpful and wanted me to study with him, but I decided to go to Paris where I ended up at a studio right on Boulevard du Montparnasse. I was just young, having fun.”

Martens landed in Southern Pines during the mid-1980s. “I came with my three-year old daughter after her father and I split,” she says. “I had horses back then and just wanted try it out, to see what it was like. We bought a house and then another house and ended up staying.”

At the time of her arrival, in many respects Southern Pines was seeing the last hurrah of what the old resort had been: a little red-brick village, old money commingling with the sunny South, a melting pot of culture with good times rolling. The parties were legendary – Ginnie Moss crowd-surfing at a horse country bash – a few titled European nobles, drifting in and out of town.

“I knew all the horse people when I came here, Mrs. Moss and the old guard,” says Martens. “I didn’t fox hunt that much because I preferred being with a couple of other riders or just going through the woods alone. The town was so quiet, the streets were dry and empty, and you could park anywhere.”

After her marriage to Schubert in 2000, they lived at Pinewild Country Club before buying their Weymouth home. Of the move, Martens confesses: “That was Howard’s dream house in Pinewild, but my studio was a small space above the garage and I really wanted to be in Southern Pines.”

Remodeling the house, new sections were added to the right side and back of the structure, along with a new screen porch. “We turned the original kitchen on the left side into our master bathroom,” Martens explains. “We made a larger kitchen in an addition on the right side that opens to the great room at the back.”

“What I love most about the house is my studio,” she says. “Unlike some artists with gorgeous studios, mine is basically a workspace in a walkout basement, as big as the house. The work area is as wide as the front of the house. There’s a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette, my office, and a large storage area. It’s practical and I don’t have to keep it tidy.”

Upstairs, an eclectic mix of furnishings anchor room interiors. “I like comfortable pieces. Even my antique coffee table, I wanted to be able to put my feet up on it. So I coated it with polyurethane and it’s bulletproof. I raised my daughter with that table doing nail polish and gluing stuff. I just wanted something nice, not a piece of junk.”

Throughout the house are collections of natural objects and interesting artifacts, items Martens uses as subjects for her work. “I like things that have a purpose. I collected shells for a series I was doing for Trowbridge,” she says, gesturing to a row of shells and matching paintings above the great room. “I wouldn’t call it decorating, I just hang paintings and put things around.”

Behind the sofa, a large canvas flanked by two smaller panels graces the wall, their rock-like pattern flowing in waves of woodland hues. “Every so often I paint for fun, which is usually my better work,” she remarks. “I call the piece the ‘Stonewall.’ We were on a house tour years ago, and I needed something to match the sofa
and rug.”

Many of her pieces were found at local yard sales. A favorite collectable was an eBay find, a wooden articulated artist form signed “Oscar.” Another piece Martens loves is her wooden bed. “I bought it in Fayetteville about 30 years ago,” she says. “This man was a soldier during WWII and brought it back after the war. It’s Italian or French, all hand-carved with
cherub heads.”

Of her work, Martens concludes: “It always changes. If you don’t grow, you’re not paying attention. I’m always trying to make it better.” In summary, Howard Schubert says of his wife: “She’s a perfect wife and mother and wonderful artist” – and a remarkable Sandhills original.

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