TML Spotlight:Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith, CA-IIY, & the Mobile Art Studio

CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You, art piece

Cristy Martinez-Smith’s most popular art piece “Singing Soul” is an expressive, lighthearted and conveying composition that invites us to study some of the major characters in our lives – a vibrant, pumping heart, yellow twisting roots coming out of one of its protruded valves. Lively tulips and creamy gardenias blossom through the short path as the opposing end reaches a cyan-colored brain filled with thick, dark nerves even more tangled than the roots beneath. Standing witness on the opposite side – a minimalistically-drawn microphone. Though she hasn’t specifically defined to us the meaning of the piece, one could assume it represents the deep connection between the two elements at the core of every being. Like Alfred Adler, it tells us “Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.”

Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith, founder of CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You
Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith, founder of CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You.
Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith, founder of CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You
Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith, founder of CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You.

“Singing Soul” might very well represent her career. Dr. Cristina Martinez-Smith – Cristy, for short – has catapulted into the artworld after wrapping up her doctoral degree in counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her eclectic style appears in dozens of paintings that she has sold across Texas and Mexico. After only a few short months of relentless development, Cristy launched her online gallery “CA-IIY” – Customized Art-Inspired In You. CA-IIY has given her the opportunity to reach a large audience where she has successfully sold photocopies of her artwork.

And now, Cristy has just completed her most ambitious project yet: CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery & Studio – a self-constructed, wooden wagon upholstered with bottle caps, a rustic Stargate-shaped entry gate, and a beautiful blend of nostalgic, warm lighting that instantly evokes memories of home, years ago, when every winter day in South Texas and Northern Mexico was cold and every summer day adventurous. Not only is it a tribute to her past, but it’s also a tool that hands her the privilege of taking her art’s concept a step further: she can travel to people, spread art with art into the genuine world.

But if one were to have asked her five years ago if this was what she’d envision herself doing, she wouldn’t have believed it.

Born and raised in Torreón, Mexico, Cristy moved to San Antonio when she was 17. She minored in Psychology and immediately started working on her doctoral degree. Throughout her post-grad career, Cristy worked as a counselor for various entities in San Antonio, including shelters, inpatient and outpatient clinics, and non-profit organizations. This period in her life gave her the opportunity to put her studies into action and assist many people in need of mental health – children, homeless individuals, abused men and women. But as is life, these years unexpectedly served as a basis for her own mental transformation and emotional growth. The rigorous, mentally challenging and emotionally draining nature of counseling made Cristy wonder about the distinct approaches to mental health. In her last semester of her academic career, Cristy took an elective course in art, where she immediately discovered that therapy isn’t the only thing that can heal one’s mental wounds.

CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery and Studio in San Antonio
CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery and Studio.

A self-taught artist, Cristy’s artwork has evolved from a rich, heavy use of color to an wide-ranging style that synthesizes different images and fuses them with a profound focus on individuals and emotions. She’s proud of two things – her refusal to draw for a genre and her constant pursuit of developing media solely focused on emotion. Conveying human condition’s forever her goal. And so at the core of it all, the theme always is and always has to be the individual. Customized art, inspired in you, by you, for you.

And so to many of us, her fan-favorite “Singing Soul” illustrates a very basic idea that we sometimes take for granted – it doesn’t make sense to live life using only the heart or the mind. It reminds us that we have to make balanced decisions.

And yet, there’s more to it than that. To some of us, it reminds us of years past, decisions where we’ve acted logically and illogically. It evokes moments of maturity or lack thereof. It summons memories of relentlessly optimistic college years, our greatest triumphs and our most melancholic snippets of time. Ultimately, it celebrates attachment. It tells us our mission in life is to ensure our soul reaches those around us with full force. It begs us not to forget the most important thing: it’s not just the heart and the mind that make us who we are, nor are they our only drivers. Yes, we should follow our hearts and take our brains. But we also gotta make ‘em sing.

CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery and Studio in San Antonio
CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery and Studio.

Can you please tell us about CA-IIY and your work? Why did you decide to start CA-IIY?

CA-IIY [/kai/] means customized art-inspired in you. The essence of my work is to create holistic art based on personalized concepts and a compilation of abstract ideas. I started CA-IIY to communicate with others and myself through art. I believe everything can be said through the language of art.

You’ve recently become a PhD counselor and are currently working as an artist. How do you balance your work as an artist and as a scholar?

Yes, I just graduated with my PhD in Counseling, Education, and Supervision. Interestingly my doctoral dissertation focused on language. I used emotional language as one of the concepts to support the need of my research study. Currently, I am working as an adjunct professor for graduate-level counseling students and working in translating a book from English to Spanish. Teaching and art are both my passions. I have decided to teach and focus the rest of my time creating art.

What advice do you have for artists and students?

My main advice is to share your knowledge so knowledge can be shared with you. Once, I read that going to school is an expensive hobby. For me, life is my school but as Mark Twain said, “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”

CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You, in San Antonio, Texas
CA-IIY, Customized Art Inspired In You.

Which is your favorite artwork that you’ve made to date?

CA-IIY is my favorite artwork that I have done. Before CA-IIY I painted but never truly honored my work as art. It was until I created CA-IIY that I saw potential and value on my art. For me CA-IIY is a work of art.

What’s next for you and CA-IIY?

Everything and anything.

Who or what is your biggest influence?

Walt Elias Disney.

CA-IIY Founder Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith inside CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery and Studio in San Antonio
CA-IIY Founder Dr. Cristy Martinez-Smith and CA-IIY Mobile Art Gallery and Studio.

For more information about CA-IIY, please visit their website at You can also check out some of their photos and videos on their Facebook page here or see their Instagram feed below.

Additional Words:

“Thank you friends and family for always helping me. This has been a team project and will always be. Art is never about one person, unless you don’t share.” – Cristy Martinez

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