Art Abstracts: Marwin Begaye’s Whooping Crane

Art Abstracts

With more than 17,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection, there are many amazing works that visitors rarely get to see. Take a peek into the vaults and off the walls each Monday with a new Art Abstract!


Whooping Crane

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IMAGE CREDIT | Marwin Begaye, Painting and Printmaking Assistant Professor | Whooping Crane, 2016, Woodblock

Currently featured in Vision | Revision: The School of Art and Art History Faculty Exhibition, Marwin Begaye’s Whooping Crane recently took first prize in graphics art at the 2016 Santa Fe Indian Market.

“As Indian people we are quite good at making our world beautiful. This aesthetic inheritance has dominated my work as it has developed from purely objective images, dancers and portraits, to the abstract work referencing my community and our ceremonial life ways. This 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. This continues to be relevant for me artistically and personally.

Since 2004, my work has been addressing malevolent health epidemics in Indian Country. This focus started to take a toll on my own well-being, as I lived with the realities of these forces in my personal life and in my art. As I sought to regain hozhó, I noticed the prevalence of birds within our traditional practices. As I worked my way back to the center, the birds have guided me on my journey. The result, of course, is that they’ve worked their way into my imagery as a series of woodcuts and paintings.

This has led me to incorporate graphic patterns that relate to the birds in the composition. These patterns are often borrowed from my grandmother’s rugs. As digital construction inspired by textile designs, I have partnered the background design with the bird’s sense of place. As these patterns have increased in their complexity and drifted toward abstractions, so has my experimentation in the relief process. I have tried to defy the static design presentation by creating flux through the lines, evoking the movement of air–again, think of the birds.

I also honor the tradition of weaving, through the designs referenced in the background. Growing up in a Navajo family, one of the many different lessons passed down is to respect the land, the environment, and all forms of life. This respect is intrinsic to the weaving ethos, something that I inherited and work from in my creative expression. What I learned about weaving from my late grandmother and my aunts who still carry on the tradition is that preparation and process are critical to the success of the final object. Participating in the traditional aesthetics of rug weaving, from shearing the sheep, carding, spinning and dying the wool, and erecting the loom are all done within our Navajo way of honoring the earth.

The work has been shown in galleries and museums throughout the United States and internationally.” — Artist Statement by Marwin Begaye

Whooping Crane and several other works by Begaye are currently on display in the School of Art and Art History Faculty Exhibition. This exhibition features work by University of Oklahoma faculty across multiple art disciplines and media, including photography, printmaking, new media, and sculpture. The exhibition will close on September 4, 2016. Join us on September 1 for a closing reception and gallery talk.

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