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Marwin Begaye

An internationally exhibited artist, Marwin Begaye examines the issues of cultural identity through the intersection of American Indian and popular cultures. His ongoing research investigates the technical processes related to printmaking and construction of mixed-media art. He has received numerous awards as an Artist in Residence and through juried exhibitions, often negotiating the cultivation of his own skills and opening doors for his students. His work has been featured in numerous publications and he maintains an active exhibition schedule, featured in exhibitions in New Zealand, England, Argentina, Paraguay, Italy, Siberia and Estonia. He is in private, museum collections and the United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division.

As Indian people, we strive to make our world beautiful. The need to make things beautiful comes to me from a long line of artists in our family who live to achieve hozhó, the Navajo concept of being centered in beauty and balance. This aesthetic inheritance dominates my work as it has developed from purely objective images of dancers and portraits, to abstract, subjective work referencing my community and our ceremonial lifeways.

As a Navajo man seeking hozhó in my life and work, I explore the prevalence of birds within our cultural practices and beliefs. I observe the birds that visited my home, feeding them, and giving them my attention–I am told they miss me when I travel. These non-human kin have become guides on my journey and, consequently, emerge as central figures in my art. Working to honor my grandmother as a weaver and to learn more about the birds, my images have evolved to include textile designs as part of the symbolic texture of the background. With highly detailed patterns executed as linocut and woodblock carvings, my artwork often exhibits figurative elements related to the stories of the bird’s cultural identity. The images are developed through a complex system of digital constructions, hand-rendered mark-making, and hand-drawn birds. By bringing these elements together, my pieces drift toward abstractions and generate a freedom for experimentation in the relief process. In defying static design, my work represents the natural flux that is part of the dynamic natures of the birds and our cultures. Birds are migratory creatures and their energy generates similar movement in my art. Many of the works from the Bird Series have migrated across the globe through exhibitions and collections, allowing me to share my artistry with many communities. It is an honor to join them in their travels down to South America, across Russia and Asia, and visiting our relatives in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Artwork from Motley Multiples is now available to collect below. Read the press release here.