For Amir Magal, gratitude is rooted in human connection
Founder of Tribal Markers describes the power of seeing the spark in people.
Amir Magal, artist and founder of Tribal Markers, is reigniting interest in ancient rituals to spark modern connection. By creating art on the body, Amir is tapping into our most basic, human desires: to be heard, witnessed and touched. He has been travelling from coast to coast, connecting with people, and connecting them to their inner beauty.
Here’s more of what he had to say about art, life, and gratitude.
I’m grateful to witness the beauty in people, to really witness that what we have is precious.
See the light in people
That quote is from our Gratitude Can Travel Any Distance film. How does your work as an artist relate to those words? What was in your mind when you said that?
I’ve always been drawn to the spark, the natural beauty in people. I started as a photographer, using the tool of the camera to capture a person’s natural beauty. If you work closely with a person you can conjure up that perfect moment, then press the button and capture their realness. When it works, it feels like there’s light coming from that person and I’m able to create a reflection of that moment.
Over time, I was spending more and more time editing and sitting in front of a computer screen, and I felt like I was losing my ability to connect with people. I could see them through the lens, but I wasn’t getting the kind of connection I was seeking.
Create connection through touch
What inspired you to move from photography to your current work with Tribal Markers?
I saw that people wanted connection through physical touch, as opposed to just beautification through photography. The need for touch is such an inherent thing about being alive in this world.
Tribal Markers started with an idea to create art and create physical connection at the same time. I started painting people at gatherings, and I started to see how special and important that moment was to me as well as the other person. It was like an opportunity for healing had been created.
Reframe your perspective
Describe what it feels like to create art on another person.
When I started painting marks on people, my perspective on art changed: it’s was no longer looking at an inanimate object like a canvas, it was looking into the person standing in front of you and opening up to the possibility of connection. That person feels heard, witnessed and touched in an entirely new way.
Through this work, I can sink in with one person. We don’t just talk, we connect, and breathe, and adorn. They are not just a body, they are a beautiful spirit, and I’m connecting to them by bringing ancient ritual back in a way that’s meaningful to our modern lives.
My belief is that we come to this world with a body as a vehicle to convey the spirit. Through eye connection and time with someone, I look to connect to the spirit; to see their spirit instead of just a body. I look forward to moments when there becomes something spiritual about the connection.
Look for spiritual beauty
How would you define beauty, in your own words?
For me, beauty is something that is emitted naturally from each person, almost like an air of pureness. It’s seeing the natural part of someone: that sparkle of curiosity, of interest, of power in the purity in the unknown. It’s witnessing someone expressing themselves and not worrying about their outward appearance. The beautiful magic we can all access is hidden in the details of this world, like our breath and the knowledge that our bodies are working to create our lives.
Be grateful for the opportunity
When you think about the idea of gratitude, what comes to mind?
I’m so grateful for every person I’ve had the opportunity to connect with through this work, for the chance to look them right in the eye and say: “I see your true spark. This is not just a body I’m touching, it’s a vehicle to connect with you.” It has been incredibly powerful for me to see the newness in each person, and for them to see themselves as more beautiful. It’s like giving them a feather and watching them fly.