Life and death. Black and white. Both are natural opposites, lending definition to one another in their contrast. But it all rests on balance, and humankind has upset that fragile system of planet Earth. The unparalleled level of destruction has lead Mexico City-based printmaker and street artist Mazatl to focus his work on the animal kingdom and the threats they face.
Mazatl means “deer” in Nahuatl, an indigenous peoples from southern Mexico and Central America. When the artist is not making prints to be hung indoors, or linocuts and woodcuts, he takes to the streets to spread his visual message.
One series focuses specifically on species that are facing extinction. Creating a body of work surrounding societal issues like that is his primary motivation. He believes it’s not solely for the welfare of the animals, because thwarting a way of life that destroys everything in its path could create a happier existence for humans as well.
“We live within a system that aims to control and tame everything and everyone. Animals are a beautiful reminder of a wilder world that struggles to survive,” Mazatl tells The Creators Project. “I believe that if perhaps we became more aware of the huge role animals and plants play in our life, we would invite a much healthier existence that doesn't rely on imposition and the death of the environment. I believe that the way we treat non-human life has direct links to the injustice in our societies.”
Mazatl is a member of the Justseeds collective, a North American co-operative of printmakers and creatives who believe in the “transformative power of personal expression in concert with collective action.” In addition to an explicit activist message, he also sees his style and process as a way to further his Mexican heritage. Mexico was early to adopt the arts for social purposes, and printmaking specifically has been widely used to communicate social and political messages since the early 1900s.
“The medium and the direct imagery, the black and white nature of the printmaking, has very much shaped my aesthetic choices,” Mazatl says. “Not to mention the link that much of Mexico still retains with its indigenous background in our culture, concepts of duality, and interconnectedness. All those things are topics I gravitate towards.”
See more of Mazatl on Instagram.
Follow Mike Steyels on Twitter: @iswayski