By David and Jason Martin
Samuel Martin, or Ribitch as he was known to most – son, father, brother and husband… artist, poet, musician, surrealist, teacher… a man of vision with an extraordinary mind – passed away Dec. 22 after a well-fought battle with pancreatic cancer, at age 69.
He is survived by his wife Dorlene, his mother Marjorie, his sister Sandra and his two sons, David and Jason.
Ribitch inspired so many throughout the Bay Area and across the globe to capture the marvelous through creative explorations of all sorts. One might say that it was impossible to have met him and not to have been inspired.
“He left an imprint on the heart of everyone he met, a lasting reminder of what you can do utilizing the marvelous,” one friend recalled.
It was a great loss to the world we inhabit that he had to leave us so early, for he had so much more that he was willing to share. He continued to create and inspire till his dying day.
His work has been published in numerous books and publications. Along with fellow Surrealist colleagues, he co-created Oyster Moon Press, a non-profit, surrealist publishing co-op and they published two volumes of “Hydrolith: Surrealist Research & Investigations” along with other works. (Check out his website to learn more about his life and his innumerable contributions: http://www.ribitch.net/resume.html.)
Creative expression called him from very early on. By the age of ten, he realized he wanted to use words and art to cause a reaction, a feeling. For the past 40 years, he has been an active member of the International Surrealist Movement. Since his introduction to Philip Lamantia and the Bay Area Surrealist Group in 1975, he has been involved in many major Surrealist exhibitions. Soon after this momentous meeting, Ribitch traveled to Chicago to meet with the Arsenal Group and attended The World Surrealist Exhibition: Marvelous Freedom, The Vigilance of Desire. Over 33 Nations were represented, showing the solidarity of all the individual groups’ worldwide.
Ribitch’s views of surrealism can be summed up in his own words:
“It is a lightning field of the possible, where the horizon is set aflame by human potential. It is here amongst the corellas of this possibility that the marvelous displays its fine wings of gossamer silk and smoke. It is the play between the invisible and the visible dancing under a moon, recognizing its dreams in crystalline reflection. It is the erotic sensation of a breath, like the shaman’s drum, the heartbeat of the marvelous calling to the unseen chimeras of the unconscious to reveal their stories at the edge of the eye.”
His other artistic passion was the Blues. His first introduction to music came when his mother would sing, “You are My Sunshine” when he was feeling sad and when he was suffering from Rheumatic fever. He first heard the Blues when he was around nine years old, when he heard his upstairs neighbor playing Muddy Waters & Elmore James. He would sit and listen to her 78s. As a teen, he had a friend that introduced him to the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins, who became one of his favorite Blues artist. He started playing Blues, primarily delta slide guitar, around 1976. He also played harmonica, and mandolin. While he never pursued a professional career as a musician, he was involved with the Bay Area Blues Society and did get to play with the likes of Blues greats like Pinetop Perkins & Charlie Musselwhite. It was this love of music that brought him and his soul mate, Dorlene, together at a Zydeco dance.
Later in life, his love of the Blues mixed with another art form, photography. Ribitch combined his love of music, photography and art to make extraordinary works that went well beyond traditional photographic work. This work earned him the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame “Blues Photographer of the Year” in 2004.
He was a peaceful revolutionary who believed in justice and equality for all. Below are just a few brief appreciations from those closest to him:
“Samuel was my soulmate. A wonderful, caring sensitive husband whom I adored. Samuel was my world, and I his. Ribitch will be dearly missed by me and so so many others that loved him too. As his wife, the joy he gave me will make me even stronger.” — Dorlene Eastman, loving wife
“My father inspired me to always be true to myself and others and follow my dreams to wherever they might lead me. I am so grateful for his inspiration and influence and helping me become the man I am today.” — Jason Martin, son
“When I was a child, I traveled to Mexico with my father in an old blue school bus. We ended up joining a traveling circus down there. In that trip I experienced the strength of communities, people that had very little but took care of each other and from that I took away a profound feeling that as long as you have a strong family and community you can take risks. He shared his love and unbridled creativity with my brother and I and encouraged us to follow our passion. I will miss him dearly and always hold him close to my heart.” — David Martin, son
“My son a warrior
even in his mighty
movements in the
warm shelter of my heart.
Oh how I loved him then and love him now.
A warrior always” — Marjorie Digue, mother
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