Alvin Marshall

Alvin Marshall portrait

CAA Member since 2023

Every morning, I talk to the Creator. I identify myself. In turn, I recognize who I am addressing. My day, and my work, starts in prayer.

To the Dine’, the universe is an orderly system of beings and elements that work together for the purpose of creating harmony. In this system, there are the spiritual beings, earthly beings, and elements. The spiritual beings are the Holy People and the Yeis. The earthly beings are the humans and the animals. The elements are the forces and things that exist naturally in the universe – earth, wind, water, fire, sky, stars. The Yeis connect the Holy People to humans.

The purpose of this universal system is to create harmony and balance. The Navajo word for this balanced state is “Hozho”. Roughly translated, Hozho is achieved through “Walking in Beauty” or in the “Beauty Way”.

Throughout my life I have experienced a connection to the spiritual part of the universe through my dreams. The Yeis speak to me there. I believe that messages are given to me through imagery and story. When I respond to the imagery and combine it with what I have learned through life experience and the participation in ceremonial dance and song, I achieve the power that allows me to create.

The first artistic influence I can remember came to me through my father. There were times when he had to hitchhike to jobs in town. Sometimes he took me with him. I can remember sitting with him on the side of the road. He would often amuse me by drawing on the back covers of matchbooks. Maybe a paper sack would blow our way. I would run after it as it danced away from me in the wind. I would catch it and bring it back to him and he would create art on this too. These simple acts of creation with the most insignificant of things taught me to see beauty and form in the humblest of earthly things. Even today, something as insignificant as a wadded up piece of trash in a garbage can, takes on a meaningful shape if I look at it long enough.

When I was five years old, my mother died leaving my father with three children. Like many Native children, I was sent from my home to a boarding school. Too young to understand where my mother went and why I was not allowed to speak my natural language, I took it all in stride. Although I was too young to know who I was, I did know what I wanted to do. I remember I was asked a question when I arrived, Did I want to be a Mormon or a Catholic? I picked the Mormons because I had heard they gave out flashlights for Christmas. With a flashlight, I could draw in the dark of night.

Although inspired by unseen forces, my art is created with stone and tools. In my culture, the earth’s elements are not entirely inanimate. We believe there is power in the Denetah, the geographic area cornered by the Four Sacred Mountains. The elements here also commune with us. Sand is used in ceremonies to create places were the Yeis can come and go. Water is used to carry blessings. Corn pollen is used for protection. Stone, when thrown to the sky, connects us to rain and wind. Even color provides a system that links the spirits with the earth. Black, white, blue, and yellow represent the directions, an association with the sacred mountains and certain deities, the time of day/night, and types of stone. Black is Jet. White is Shell. Yellow is Abalone and Blue is Turquoise. A turquoise stone, for example, belongs to the South direction, Daytime, Mount Taylor and the deity, “Born from Water”.

Clark Kelley Price, Christmas Pintos for the Kids
Oil, 24″ x 36″, $24000