Arts / Galleries

For Dallas Artist Marian Mekhail, a Fresh Approach is Everything

Her “Maktub” Exhibition Is on View in Dallas

BY Vivian Phillips // 02.24.22

Marian Mekhail smiles when she speaks. Like her art, her voice is bold and colorful. “My ancestors invented paint, literally,” she says. “To use the very material that they created to build a life for myself is incredible.”

Marian Mekhail’s newest exhibition, “Maktub,” is inspired by her Egyptian heritage and Coptic religious upbringing. On display now through March 14 at Janette Kennedy Gallery in Dallas, “Maktub” weaves religious symbolism with imagery reminiscent of the art found in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Marian Mekhail’s “Nefertiti,” 2021, at Janette Kennedy Gallery
Marian Mekhail’s “Nefertiti,” 2021, at Janette Kennedy Gallery

Though her inspiration comes from antiquity, Mekhail’s approach to art is fresh. The Instagram account for Mekhail’s work boasts more than 20,000 followers and is run like the page of an influencer. In marketing her work via social media, Mekhail has gradually built a narrative. As she gains success, followers watch Mekhail propel towards career milestones of increasing distinction.

What is left is a virtual diary that chronicles Mekhail’s journey from start to present.

“In 2019, I left my corporate job in operations management to become a full-time, what I call, art-repreneur.” she says. It is Mekhail’s story as a 9-to-5 employee turned independent artist that attracts followers, alongside her vibrant works.

Mekhail may have left corporate America but she certainly did not leave management. In order to avoid falling into the cliché of the starving artist, Mekhail says that rather than simply selling their art, the modern creator must run a business. To achieve success as an artist in the age of the internet is to take full advantage of its resources. Mekhail’s online exposure has attracted the attention of celebrity athletes including Houston Texans great Andre Johnson, French basketball player Ian Mahinmi and Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale, who each have hired her for commissions. 

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Marian Mekhail's "Knight In Distress", 2021
Marian Mekhail’s Knight In Distress, 2021, at Janette Kennedy Gallery

“It’s unreal,” Mekhail laughs, as she recounts the first time a celebrity athlete reached out to ask her for a commission. Mekhail says that as a child the first drawings she made were sketches of her favorite NBA players.

“You know, my collection is called “Maktub” which in Arabic means ‘it is written.’ ” With her journey as an artist coming full circle so perfectly, Mekhail feels almost as if her career was “written” into the fabric of time.

An homage to the “very blood that flows through [her] veins,” “Maktub” takes inspiration from some of the earliest art known to mankind. Paintings within the tombs of pharaohs — commemorating life, death, and knowledge — are among the most famous hallmarks of ancient Egyptian art from which Mekhail takes inspiration. 

Religious imagery also informs Mekhail’s work, stemming from her experience growing up as a member of the Coptic church. One of her paintings, Bakhoor, depicts a priest lifting a bowl of incense to the heavens as smoke rises out of it. “During that time, you’re supposed to be saying your prayers because as the smoke lifts, it will raise those prayers up to heaven,” she says.

Marian Mekhail's "BAKHOOR" 2021
Marian Mekhail’s Bakhoor, 2021, at Janette Kennedy Gallery

The growth of Mekhail’s business, much like smoke escaping from a bowl of incense, only continues to rise. “Maktub” as a collection intersects ancient art forms with modern forms of marketing. Reverence for the past bears no limitations on Mekhail’s utilization of present opportunities.

“MAKTUB” is on view now through March 14 at Janette Kennedy Gallery, 1409 S. Lamar Street. Opening night reception, Saturday, February 26, 6 to 10 pm. Follow Marian Mekhail on social media, here.

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