Featured Artist: Marcus Cadman

Marcus Cadman, Plenty Coups

Marcus Cadman is a Native American painter of Navajo and Kickapoo heritage, working primarily with acrylic on canvas and paper.  He also makes modern sculptures and with the recent completion of a Relief Woodcarving class in the spring of 2011 is about to venture more into the carving aspects of sculpture.

He mainly exhibits at art festivals such as Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum Indian Market.  You can find his work at the museum shop in the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He is also a member of the Portal Program with the New Mexico History Museum.  Cadman’s work can be found in these public collections: Dine College (Shiprock, New Mexico), Red Cloud Indian School (Pine Ridge, South Dakota), and the World Bank Permanent Collection (Washington, D.C).

He has studied art and other humanity courses at Dine College in Shiprock, New Mexico and San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico. Marcus was born in Shiprock, New Mexico and still lives in this quiet Navajo community in the four corners region of New Mexico.


I was born in the four corners region of New Mexico in a small town on the Navajo reservation. The town of Shiprock is still where I call home today. My lineage is descended from the Kickapoo tribe of the great lakes region and the Navajo tribe of the southwest.

My father, an artist in his own right, was the first person to expose me to art. I remember watching him create simple line drawings that would come to life from just pen and paper. It was a magical experience to watch. And I witnessed that same magic when I discovered that I too could draw.

As I grew up and went through the school system the quiet artist in me was always daydreaming on paper. My art was always there to comfort and release me from the daily rigors of school. Though my work stood out, I did not realize it at the time, that my art was a Calling. That epiphany would come four years later after my graduation from Shiprock High School.

It was the readings of Joseph Campbell through a community college course that opened my eyes and heart to the world of the Sacred. And it is from this source that I try to work from. That experience along with some painting, color theory, figure drawing, and art history courses helped me to carve out my own personal style of painting since then.

To do this I combine elements from the modern world and elements from the tribal world. This often results in whimsical images that speak of the sacred and the secular aspects of our world. It is also no coincidence that I use symbols and metaphor along with fragments of realism, surrealism, abstraction, and other -isms to suggest what I am trying to say. Some of my paintings are my own interpretations of history, fueled by personal feeling. Others have to do with my personal experiences of growing up between American culture and my Native cultures’. And yet others portray free associations that I conjure up, even imagined worlds.

To render these images, I incorporate a variety of media such as: acrylic, pencil, pastel, watercolor, ink, and colored pencil. I also use collage in a lot of my work. Things like old photographs, cloth, buckskin, money, bingo sheets, pages from the bible in Navajo and English are found on my canvas’ and wooden pieces. This technique of collage is vital to my work because it thrusts upon the viewer the differing images and realities of the modern world and the tribal world.

New directions with my art include the revisiting of watercolor. It’s been more than ten years since I first worked with watercolor in college and I am excited to see how this medium renders my style of painting. A recent completion of a relief woodcarving class has also ignited in me a new desire to work more with sculpture. So far I have only worked with soft woods such as aspen and bass.

My work is about depicting and chronicling Native American life today. I am painting my time in history. I let no social, political, or religious standards interfere with this process. I create from my own truth.


See more of Marcus’s work at marcuscadman.com.

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