Ocean County Cashier’s Double Life As Gifted Artist Unveiled

Jeffrey Martinez has a gift for art. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  LITTLE EGG HARBOR – With his magnetic presence and a smile that puts people at ease, Jeffrey Martinez often draws customers to his checkout line at the local Walmart. Jeffrey’s eyes, profound and dark as the night, betray no hint of the hidden talents that reach far beyond his mastery of a barcode scanner.

  A member of the community for just over a year, Jeffrey, 57, has earned worldwide recognition as an acclaimed artist. His creations resonate with undeniable brilliance. Yet, it was only recently that Jeffrey found himself ready to resurrect and reveal his greatest passion.

  Depression’s grip can be paralyzing, as brought on by a tumultuous journey through love and loss, which Jeffrey found led from the heights of happiness to the depths of despair. Heartbreak and isolation appeared insurmountable until the broken man yielded to the warmth of his father and stepmother welcoming him into their Little Egg Harbor home.

  Jeffrey explained that his story began with an online chat with a beautiful woman who was a fan of his artwork. Their connection burned through the screen and led to a whirlwind romance that spanned two continents. Eager to please, Jeffrey agreed to move to Buenos Aires so his new love could be close to her family.

  “I put a ring on her finger,” shared Jeffrey. “I adored her; I cooked for her and did everything I could to make her happy.”

  With only his art to support them in a foreign country, Jeffrey had limited resources. He did his best and landed them a tiny apartment to call their own. The tightness of the space may have well contributed to what was to come.

  Not one to beg someone to stay, Jeffrey admitted he was devastated when the love of his life decided to leave him on March 8, 2020. Three days later, the pandemic took over and Jeffrey found himself quarantined in a little apartment in a place far away from family and friends.

  “The solitude started eating at me,” Jeffrey shared. “I fell into a morbid depression and started to drink. I got very sick.”

Jeffrey Martinez has created several airbrushed pieces that display his talent. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Periodically, Juan, the building superintendent, would make his way to Jeffrey’s door, checking in on him. Noticing the accumulation of empty bottles and the unusual yellow tint to his neighbor’s skin, Juan grew worried. Prompted by concern, Juan firmly recommended a hospital visit.

  Jeffrey remains grateful for the intervention by a kind person who likely helped save his life. He received care for both his medical and mental health issues. Jeffrey said he was also thankful that universal healthcare covered his expenses entirely, despite his non-residency status.

  Throughout the throes of his depression, Jeffrey made no attempts at using his art as a potential escape. He felt lost and dark and struggled to survive. To add to his sorrow, Jeffrey’s mother died and he was not able to say goodbye because of travel restrictions during the pandemic.

  By the time Edwin and Karen Martinez convinced their son to join them in Little Egg Harbor last February, he had lost a lot of weight. However, Jeffrey somehow managed to pull himself out of his depression and landed the job at Walmart.

  In a sense, it’s hardly astonishing that Jeffrey swiftly became a cashier sensation. During his work as a security guard at the Guggenheim Museum, Jeffrey’s captivating mannerisms caught the attention of a New York Times reporter. So intrigued by Jeffrey’s ability to engage patrons in meaningful conversations about the exhibits, the reporter penned a 2013 feature article about him doing double duty.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  Art has always been in Jeffrey’s blood and the good news is that it has seamlessly reintegrated back into his life. Originally from Queens, NY, Jeffrey nurtured his natural abilities with art classes over the years. He studied oil painting and life drawing at the Art Students League of New York and also took continuing education courses at the School of Visual Arts.

  Jeffrey’s skill in creating exquisite artworks using an airbrush, whether on canvas or apparel, has garnered him acknowledgment in two distinct editions of a magazine that celebrates the expertise of airbrush artists.

A portrait Jeffrey Martinez created of his father, Edwin Martinez. (Photo courtesy Jeffrey Martinez)

  On occasion, Jeffrey’s creative process begins with a delicate sketch of a photograph, often a commission that he transforms into art. At other times, Jeffrey relies on his imagination to craft original pieces of artwork.

  Life has undoubtedly taken a positive turn. The shadows of depression seem to have dissipated, and Jeffrey no longer seeks solace in self-medicating with alcohol – those struggles appear to be part of his past, left behind in Argentina.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  Not only has Jeffrey saved enough money to buy a car with cash, he also found a place of his own to call home. On his off days as a cashier, Jeffrey has a plethora of commissioned artwork to create. He also crafts meals with a culinary artistry that encompasses diverse cuisines – offering him a passport to explore the flavors of the world.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  “Now, at 57, I feel a peace that I haven’t felt in a very long time,” said Jeffrey. “I have everything I need, and I am not hurting. I am living a life without complications.”