Zahra Marwan lives in a complex world. She was born in Kuwait, but is not recognized as a citizen. She finished high school in Rio Rancho, and lived in France for three years before graduating from the University of New Mexico.
She is an award-winning illustrator who works in Albuquerque, and her illustration is on the cover of the Summer 2019 issue of the New Mexico Rail Runner’s Express Magazine.
Marwan’s portfolio takes one on adventures like swimming at night in the sea near Kuwait, walking through New York City with Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, and listening to a fellow named Noah playing his guitarron at the Santuario de Chimayo.
A Professional Space
Marwan’s three years studying art in France gave her tremendous opportunities.
“I lived in a 7-square-meter room on Rue de Lille in Paris,” she says. “I would visit the Musee d’Orsay regularly, although I frequented the Centre Pompidou quite a bit, too. I was obsessed by all the traveling exhibits coming in and out of the city.”
In addition to the museums, she had opportunities to visit the studios and gardens of great painters.
“When I visited Cezanne’s studio, I felt so inspired by his giant windows looking out onto the trees,” she says. “For a while I hesitated between working at home and setting up a studio. When I saw his space, I knew that I had to set up a professional space.
“I had visited Monet’s garden as well, but it wasn’t nearly as magical as Cezanne’s ‘tree house’ studio in Aix-en-Provence.”
Today she works at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque and she is very happy it has large windows looking out onto the trees as well as the Petroglyphs.
In addition to artistic inspiration, Marwan brought home with her a husband, “the sweetest Frenchman in the world.” His name is Florian Goussin.
Children's Books & Magazine Cover
The title of the illustration on the cover of Express Magazine is Allegras Love for Oren.
“I sell my work at the Albuquerque Downtown Grower’s Market each Saturday,” Marwan says. “My vending neighbor is a woodworker named Allegra and her charming little boy Oren. The illustration was originally made for her love for him, and the beauty of being in Albuquerque.”
That beauty includes sheep, the Rio Grande, the Alvarado Hotel and a few Lobos. Of course, the Rail Runner passes through as well, and Marwan rides the train to Santa Fe regularly.
“I don’t like the drive to Santa Fe,” she says. When she’s there, she visits Collected Works. “I like to sit there and look at illustrated children’s books.”
Finding inspiration in the pages, she too has written and illustrated a children’s book that she anticipates being published. “It’s about a bull that wakes up in the night and is afraid,” she says.
Marwan also illustrated a poster for a bilingual children’s book festival at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
This past winter, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District held a contest to design a future cover of Express Magazine, and Allegras Love for Oren was the winning entry.
To learn more about Zahra Marwan, and to view her portfolio, visit www.zahramarwan.com.
Story by: Martin Frentzel