At Kat Kinnick and Zahra Marwan’s first joint show last June, the pair hung their works on alfalfa bales at Albuquerque’s Rio Grande Community Farm. Almost two months later, Kinnick and Marwan are winding down their second collaboration, Ruminations & Remnants, a pop-up exhibition at NO LAND, the intimate Plaza-adjacent gallery space of Strangers Collective, a relatively new group focused on independent Santa Fe artists. Kinnick and Marwan’s works fill every nook and cranny of the space to create a homespun environment down to small details such as hand-written titles and binder clips that hold the art.
"Kat and Zahra have this disarming approach to creating and exhibiting art that intrigued us," Strangers Collective co-founder Kyle Farrell says. "The work is really colorful and often funny and lighthearted, but there are darker and deeper stories that stir under the surface. It takes a while for this work to unfold and reveal its intricacies."
There is fluidity between the pieces, but also distinct styles that speak to each woman's individual story prior to crossing paths.
Kinnick grew up in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, where her parents restored Navajo rugs. It was a practice that instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in the artist at a young age and inspired her to sell homemade dog biscuits at the local farmers market when she was 10. Kinnick recalls her father's early influence on her creative process. "When I was growing up, my dad taught me about Native Americans' culture of care," Kinnick says. "It was this 'leave the planet as it is' philosophy, and as a kid that made me cry—I didn't see that in our culture."
This absence inspired Kinnick to fill the gap with artwork focused on nature in the belief that "the more we have a relationship with plants and animals, the more we can take care of the world." From forest scenes created with gouache paints on paper to life-size cutouts of animals, Kinnick calls for respect of everyday elements. She takes this approach even further, teaching kids at Temple Beth Shalom and learning about their interaction with the environment. "I love kids' directness, enthusiasm and wonder about the natural world and life," she explains. "We all have that in us, too."
Marwan's work, on the other hand, explores memory, transition and the beauty that can be found in human interactions. "My process is always shifting, but it's becoming more and more about what's happening day to day," Marwan says. "I'm drawing on memory."
This approach stems from her upbringing in two places: Kuwait and New Mexico. Before she was born, Marwan's father applied for a green card to leave the political strife of Kuwait. Twenty-two years later in 1998, when Marwan was 8 years old, the application was finally approved, and the family moved to the Southwest.
She describes being born without nationality, a toddler in the midst of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait without any legal or human rights. She became a citizen of the United States at the age of 15. The strength of Marwan's voice radiates as she tells her story and says with a smile, "I still had a relatively happy childhood—other than the political oppression."
Like Kinnick, Marwan's father, a poet and a photographer, influenced her creative practice. Through ink, watercolor and gouache, Marwan creates layered stories embedded with cultural connection. These works are windows into seemingly simple moments such as "Family Lunch, Twice a Week," "Rubik's Cube in the Winter," and "Packing." Marwan is committed to her work by drawing for two hours a day. "It's a daily rhythm, a consistent practice," she says. "Ugly drawings are part of the process. I don't want to be a pseudo-artist who only creates a painting every eight months."
Though ultimately independent in practice and approach, Kinnick and Marwan share a philosophy that art has the power to create a value system in society, but it must be accessible in order to do so. "I don't want to be an artist who nobody understands," Kinnick tells SFR. "I want my work to be visually, conceptually and monetarily available. Accessible art allows people to have a higher quality of life."
Marwan agrees. "At the [Albuquerque Grower's] Market, some people are like, 'You shouldn't be selling your art at a place like this!' I'm like, 'Why can't it be sold like tomatoes?'"
Ruminations and Remnants closing reception with music from Lone Piñon
6 pm Sunday August 6. Free.
54 1/2 E San Francisco St., Ste. 7