October 11, 1967 – July 10, 2023

Thad Martin was born in Sacramento, California in 1967. He contracted spinal meningitis while in first grade at Starr King Elementary in 1973, and as a result he became profoundly deaf. His parents chose the Total Communication method, and Thad learned Signed English soon afterwards. Thad returned to the same school and was mainstreamed there as the only Deaf student.

“I had no Deaf friends or peers, and barely any contact whatsoever with Deaf culture until I discovered it in college,” he says. “I had a fortunate childhood, but spontaneous and full communication in a shared language was not part of my experience.”

His parents fought the school district to win an interpreter/aide for him there in the seventh and eighth grades, and again in 1980 to obtain an interpreter when Thad enrolled at El Camino High School in Sacramento, again as the only Deaf student there.

He graduated as Salutatorian in his class in 1985 and was accepted to the University of California at Berkeley that fall. Here, for the first time, Thad discovered the Deaf community and began learning American Sign Language. Thad graduated from University of California at Berkeley with BA degrees in Art and English in 1989, and obtained his MFA degree from the same university in 1992. After teaching art at the University of California at Davis for two quarters in 1994, Thad moved to Austin, Texas in 1995 where he resided with his wife and children.

He began learning computer programming and graphics software because “Two things spurred my interest in this field. The fact that knowledge of creative uses of the computer would increase my chances of getting hired as a college art teacher, and the realization that computers create a level playing field where the Deaf in a hearing society are concerned, in terms of breaking the communications barrier that hinders us. But whatever else I may be at times in this life, I will always be an artist.”

In response to Thad’s ceramic busts with elongated necks , Thad had responded “By focusing on heads, I am able to focus on the common ground between “hearing communication and Deaf communication and, indeed, all communication: facial expressions,” says American sculptor Thad Martin. “It could be, too, that a subconscious motive for this focus was the fact that I depended heavily on lip-reading to cope with the hearing world, and that as I step more fully into my rights and identity as a Deaf person, and begin to make American Sign Language my own, hands and arms will emerge as a powerful motif in my work.”

From his obituary:
“Thad was part of art communities in both in California and Texas, and his sculptures were included in De’VIA’s Touring Exhibit of Deaf Culture Art. In addition to being an artist Thad helped form local food communities.”


From: WFDNews  Vol. 12  No. 03 and other sources