Brian Mazatl Nicolás-Espinoza is a freelance artist who predominantly practices relief printmaking and illustration. Based in Mechoopda Maidu land (Chico, CA), Brian caters to the metal underground and is a person of indigenous Nahua/Mixteco descent aiming to uplift fellow Native people and history with their work. Brian was born and raised in East Los Angeles/Boyle Heights, CA. A hub for rich Mexican-American culture, tradition, and history.
Brian began their printmaking journey whilst studying Studio Art at California State University, Chico in 2018. Here, they studied with an emphasis in printmaking, and Brian was convinced by an art teacher to make the jump to the program when they were pursuing computer animation.“After getting my hands dirty in the processes of intaglio, serigraphy, and relief, I felt a natural inclination toward relief and there was no looking back since"
Their printmaking process is very meditative, almost ritual like. There is always some form of incense, sage, or cedar burning to aid Brian’s creativity. They also pick and choose an album to help aid with the theme and direction of their work. Brian describes; “If I absolutely need to take a break, I like to go outside and be lost in thought looking at the foothills and grassy fields enjoying the lack of sounds from a congested neighborhood.”
Brian’s tools of choice include palm grip carvers, a custom palette knife, and sheets of linoleum and cherry wood. They mostly pull their prints by hand, using a glass baren and a registration board. Otherwise, Brian uses a small press to pull smaller works.
The majority of Brian’s inspiration comes from music. “There isn’t a day in my life where I will not listen to music, it is integral to my life and revolves around it,” states the printmaker. Having always been fascinated by band artwork and merch, Brian describes that they “live for the visuals as much as the music”. Brian thrives in the metal underground scene, consuming mostly doom and black metal. With indigenous metal on the rise, it has significantly helped with their pursuit and form of expression.
Brian tells us that they owe part of their pursuit into printmaking to metal music, especially the band Volahn. Their work is a form of expression influenced by their Maya roots. After a breakthrough from a visit to a Maya ruin, Brian’s eyes were opened. They comment; “Through deep introspection and breakthrough spiritual experiences, I felt obligated and inspired to learn more about my family history and the lineage of my sacred blood.”
Brian has always been fascinated by the iconography of Doré and Dürer, naturally, like any other printmaker, but everything changed when he became exposed to the work of José Guadalupe Posada, Leopoldo Méndez, Adolfo Mexiac, and especially contemporary artist Sergio Sanchez Santamaría.
The printmaker feels that it is their responsibility to carry, seek, and embrace the sacred language and tradition of Mixtex from ever dissipating, especially when far removed from the source, being born into the United States. Brian thoroughly enjoys history and doing research on their own. When attending Chico State, they were infatuated with Medieval Art History. Another turning point to their pursuit was the exposure from their Ancient Mexican Art history class; “All the signs were leading me to my path of creative expression and personal pursuit in life”.
What Brian aims to do with their work as a whole, is to uplift people of colour and of indigenous descent from the North, Central, and South of America. They state; “I aim to highlight events in history, retell a narrative in a revisionist approach of Western art, and create folk art to celebrate us. With that, I hope to inspire people struggling to come to terms with their brown skin, to decolonize their mind, and heal from our generational trauma collectively.”
Brian concludes; “I aim to do what I love for the sake of music. To provide some of the most wicked artwork for all who are drawn to my work and to share this knowledge for all people to enjoy the exposure of relief printmaking in the metal scene.”