6/18/1925 – Feb. 10, 2019
Artist Kasandra Martell died at home, surrounded by her loved ones, as was her wish. Less than two months before her death at 93 years of age, she was still living on her own, driving her van to the Santa Barbara Beach Arts and Crafts Show where she sold her artwork every Sunday for close to 39 years. A fiercely independent and private person in life, Kasandra, was born with the name Herlinda Margarita Illescas Tejeda in the town of Tulancingo, Hidalgo, near Mexico City. She changed her name late in life for personal reasons, which she did not care to discuss. She went to Catholic school where she excelled in her studies, impressing her teachers. Years later she would tell the story of how upon meeting her father in a bus, the Mother Superior asked how Margarita was doing in school and became quite upset when she learned that due to family finances and the custom of the day she was kept back from higher education. The Mother Superior exclaimed, “How could you? With such a brain, she should go to college!”
She remained in the town of Tulancingo, where she worked as assistant manager of a bank, married Jose Tello Desentis, a large-animal veterinarian, and had four children. After a courageous (for the time and place) divorce she moved with her four children to Mexico City in 1959. There she succeeded in running several entrepreneurial businesses, including an atelier that employed a number of women operating knitting machines fashioning sweaters of Ms. Martell’s design, and studying cosmetology and opening a beauty salon where she expertly colored, cut and designed hair-dos popular in the 1960s. She also owned a corner store that sold fruit and prepared sweet corn on the cob, but her true love was painting, and she started showing and selling her artwork at the world famous Jardin Del Arte, which is credited as being the inspiration for Santa Barbara’s Beach Show. The Jardin Del Arte was popular with tourists. It was there that Ms. Martell met an American businessman who became a sponsor for Kasandra and her family to immigrate to the United States in 1969.
Kasandra’s great passion in life was her art. She believed in furthering her artistic knowledge and attended many artist’s workshops and classes to sharpen her skills and learn new techniques. Many patrons over the years collected her work, from celebrities like Richard Nixon and Frank Sinatra to lucky tourists who got good deals at the beach show. She traveled around the world to visit museums in pursuit of continuing her artistic education and spent extended periods of time painting and learning in Canada and Spain, and even showed her work in Japan. Kasandra is best known for her mastery of seascapes, floral still-lifes and landscapes, but she especially loved to learn and experiment with an endless variety of techniques. She believed that her passion for art was what kept her young.
Ms. Martell lived in Carpinteria for several years, where her son Arturo Tello, also a painter, still resides. Although Ms. Martell enjoyed walking from her home at the San Roque Mobile Home Estates to the Carpinteria Bluffs, she missed life in a larger community; so, in 1993 she purchased a home in Santa Barbara, where she had easier access to city living, theatres and bookstores.
Kasandra Martell is survived by her four children, Griselda Tello (Robin Yarbourgh) from Madera, Jose Antonio Tello (Yolanda Rivera) from Riverside, Rosalba Tello (James Diaz) from Austin, Texas and Arturo Tello of Carpinteria. She is also survived by her eight grandchildren, Jordie, Yolanda Margarita, Veronica, Farah Christina, Antonio Joseph, Michael, Alexandria and Austin, as well as four great grandchildren, Julian, Rio, Joaquin and Liam.
Although the family is scattered geographically, Kasandra kept in close daily telephone communication with her family and they were happy and blessed to drop everything and be at her side during her short transition. It was Kasandra’s wish that she would be remembered through donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. A celebration of her life is planed for April 26 at the Palm Loft Gallery in Carpinteria. Detailed announcements will be made.