January 21, 2021

Artist Feature: Breeze

Over a decade ago, I had the fine opportunity to meet a future friend: Thomas Marcus. He was interested in the graffiti street arts scene and went by the name Breeze. I preferred to call him Thomas Marcus (it had a ring to it). One night, I barely met him, but he was cool, and I hopped into his van (LOL) after a Heard Indian Market, and we, along with his buddy Hendrix (yes, related), went off to hit up some art parties. OH THE GOOD OL' DAYS.

One of my first blog posts about him was about a collab in 2010:
This month Tyson Powless of Un3ek Sy5tems and I have worked together to create this new image of Geronimo holding an Ak-47, with a sunburst halo around Geronimo and the assault rifle. The title of the image is "Sacred Soldiers". It symbolizes the intensity that so many people possess deep down in their soul and bones. It also is a tribute to those who have gone on, who at one point in their lives, were fighting for their land and people. As Indigenous peoples (all over the world), we are all proud of where we come from, and at the same time we still defend and fight for our people, and cultural identity, and right to exist in so many forms. Our existence is our resistance.
Oh, I used that “our existence is our resistance” quote too many times to count, always giving props to his vision.

Breeze is O’odham, a people whose traditional lands straddle the US/Mexico border, which for some odd reason means that they are targets in the name of National security. Makes no sense to me, but I guess the US government has different thought patterns. 

His work has been delightfully consistent: thoughtful, enlightened, intricate, accessible, and you can feel the rhythm in his entwined lines.

Those distinctive lines are inspired by old O’odham basketry made from Devil’s Claw. The plant itself features both straight and curvilinear lines. The baskets are bold with repetitious patterns. Never would you expect to see traditional ancestral Native American woven basketry in street art, which is a genre associated with youth, rebellion, dissidence. Yet here it is - vibrant, enchanting, and alluring.

Those lines show up many times, on walls, rattles, and bodies. There is no need for a specific restricted canvas for this artist. His lines dance off and grow in new spaces. In your mind, you know that those lines take time to draw and spawn; they expand outward like the maze of life. It is organic and poignant. But, there is a catch. And this is where the power lies: The artist knows there is a disruption to our natural patterns, enacted by a false border.

"The Tohono O’odham Nation, as well as the rest of the southern border of the United States, is under attack by geopolitical agendas." He explains, "The wall being built creates not only a physical divide, but also a spiritual and mental divide among the country at large, and, more importantly, it disrupts a Native American people's way of life, whose traditional homelands exist on both sides of the international border.”

The O’odham people, for no reason of their own, have been under a militarized state since 9/11, with, as Breeze explains "one of the largest homeland security presence in the United States, including heavy border patrol checkpoints within the boundaries of the reservation and the recent installation of surveillance towers built by an Israeli defense company." That is goddam ridiculous. I mean, in my humble opinion.

So, with that, it was a great honor to work with him on our Artist Feature for Beyond Buckskin, and he designed this epic print.

He explained:
Homelands” is a piece that highlights the resilience of the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) who are currently experiencing these issues on a firsthand and daily basis. The Hokimal (butterfly) image is accompanied by a central O’odham butterfly basket pattern and represents freedom of movement. It also references feelings of soothing calm or hope, similar to a grandmother’s love. These elements balance the barbed wire and wall below, which are the adversities. The graffiti writing on the bottom wall simply states “homelands”. Intentionally difficult and complex to read, it reflects the complexities of the varied issues that comprise the landscape and daily life of the O’odham of southern Arizona.
I must note, he sent along two options. Both were awesome, but this was the rowdier of the two. Art, I think, should unabashedly make a statement - whatever that statement is. I loved the barbed wire, the graffiti. The balance of beauty, of confinement, of freedom, of restriction. I think the piece speaks of the current experiences of not only the O’odham, but also beyond. We all feel something when we are fenced in, lied to, and under constant surveillance.

There is so much to his work, and I hope you will follow him on Instagram and check out his website. With galleries restricted, artists are facing new challenges in sharing their work, and one of the best ways to share art is to share it with your friends and networks.